By Joshua Kato
Harvesting has kicked off across most parts of the country. According to experts, the better practices adopted during harvesting, the better quality the product is.
Soon, harvesting cereals is starting and according to the Grain Council of Uganda, farmers are advised to carry out proper post-harvest handling practices in order to get the best quality product.
Carry out proper threshing or shelling
Thresh or shell your crops in a proper way. It is important for farmers to minimise damage to grains during threshing/shelling as damaged grain is much more susceptible to attack by insects and fungi in storage.
Consequently, techniques that crush and damage grains such as beating with sticks are not recommended, except in commodities where beating poses no significant damage.
Also, the grain should be neither too moist (soft) nor too dry (brittle) at the time of threshing/shelling; it is best done when grain is around 14 to 16% moisture content, although paddy rice is commonly threshed at around 18-22%. Beans, cowpea, sorghum and paddy rice can be threshed by hand and this can be done conveniently by beating the crop against a threshing platform such as a tree log or metallic drum. However, this process is relatively slow and tedious. A moderately expensive option would be motor-driven threshers which come in different models with outputs ranging from 600 to 5,000 kg/h.
Most models will also clean the threshed grain using shaking screens and/or blower fans. In the case of paddy rice, pedal operated threshers are also commonly available. A simple hand-operated sheller is also available for shelling maize.
Clean product properly
Clean your threshed/shelled grain properly. Cleaning can significantly improve grain quality and hence its grade and price. Cleaning involves the removal of foreign matter such as stones, husks, pods, broken grains and dust produced during threshing. At the same time, it is possible to remove insect-damaged and mouldy grains by hand picking. Cleaning is most often done manually by winnowing. This involves tossing the grain into the wind which carries off the lightest impurities, while the heavier grain falls onto a tarpaulin or other surface. However, this method does not separate the heavier impurities. For this a sieve is required, where the grain is retained on the sieve and smaller heavier impurities fall through it. Such a sieve can be either single or double handed.
Dry to required moisture
Dry threshed or shelled produce until they attain recommended moisture content for storage. There are subjective and objective indicators which farmers can use to indicate safe moisture level for storage. Experienced farmers will know how to judge the safe moisture content evidenced by the fact that they have been storing grain safely all their lives. A more objective method for moisture content determination is to use the salt-bottle method.