Protect grain from pests, store properly – ARDAS Mr Shingirai Nyamutukwa

Fildah Gwati

THE absence of proper post-harvest pest identification and control measures is the leading cause for losses in grain quantity and quality among most smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe, which poses a serious threat to food security.

In a recent X (formerly Twitter) post, the Agricultural and Rural Development Advisory Services (ARDAS) stressed the crucial role identifying post-harvest storage pests plays in aiding the implementation of effective control measures and ensuring the safe storage of harvested produce.

Migratory Pest Control Department acting chief director Mr Shingirayi Nyamutukwa yesterday told The Herald that pests like beetles, moths, and rodents can quickly ruin stored grain if infestations are left unchecked.

“An undetected infestation can spread rapidly, reducing a farmer’s food supply and income, for example, maize infested with larger or lesser grain borers can be rendered completely unfit for consumption if the problem is not addressed promptly,” he said.

Mr Nyamutukwa emphasised the need for early detection of pests through regular inspections, which allows farmers to implement control measures before significant damage occurs.

“Proper drying, that is, ensuring grains are dried to the right moisture content, for instance, 12, 5 percent for maize , the right storage techniques, as well as the use of natural repellents and integrated pest management approaches are essential to protecting valuable grain stores,” Mr Nyamutukwa said.

He pointed out that many smallholder farmers lacked access to knowledge and resources required for effective post-harvest pest management. This has resulted in widespread losses, compromising household food supplies and undermining efforts to achieve national food security.

Mr Nyamutukwa urged farmers to be vigilant in monitoring their stored grains and seek guidance from extension officers on implementing best practices for pest control.

The indiscriminate use of hazardous pesticides, such as aluminium phosphide tablets can pose serious health risks if not handled properly, he explained.

“We urge our farmers not to use aluminium phosphide tablets in their homesteads and should they opt to use them, they should have proper protective clothing (which is not always available) and ensure the treatment site is away from residential places and that they do not keep the tablets outside their original container, which is waterproof,” he explained.

He added that proactive pest management was a crucial component of sustainable agriculture and by consistently identifying and controlling post-harvest pests, farmers can protect their valuable grain stores and ensure food security for their families and communities.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), about 30 percent of the harvested grain is lost due to lack of appropriate storage facilities, a situation forcing farmers to sell most of their grain soon after harvesting at very low prices, leaving them poor and vulnerable.

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