Nigerian company licenses Purdue crop storage system
Farmers in West and Central African nations could benefit economically, socially and nutritionally using a crop storage system developed by researchers at Purdue University and licensed to Kano-based Lela Agro Industries Nigeria Ltd.
The Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) system was developed by Larry L. Murdock, professor of entomology in the Purdue College of Agriculture, and scientists in Cameroon. The research was funded by a USAID program and supported by Purdue's International Programs in Agriculture.
Murdock said PICS originally was developed to store cowpeas, or black-eyed peas, which are eaten in storage by cowpea weevils, an invasive insect. The system reduces the amount of damage the weevils inflict upon stored cowpeas.
"Cowpea weevils have an amazing reproductive capacity and can destroy any store of grain many times over in less than a year. A single female cowpea weevil can produce 60 male and female offspring in one month or less. In another month there are 1,800 cowpea weevils and 54,000 the month after that," he said. "The numbers keep rising until everything edible is rendered worthless."
Murdock said the system uses hermetically sealed bags, which means they have the quality of being airtight.
"The PICS bags are uninhabitable environments for cowpea weevils," he said. "The keys to the success of PICS are that insect reproduction is essentially stopped quickly and most eventually die of dehydration."
James "Jess" M. Lowenberg-DeBoer, associate dean in the College of Agriculture and director of International Programs in Agriculture, said PICS has been used throughout the world, with around 2.5 million bags being sold to date.
"PICS bags are used on a large scale in 10 African countries with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tchad and Togo," he said. "The system also has been used in Rwanda, with funding from the USAID office in Kigali, as well as Afghanistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Laos, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe."
Sani Moussa, who grows cowpeas in the Maradi Region of Niger, has used PICS since 2010. Before then, weevils destroyed the crops he stored.
"I remember storing three sacks of cowpeas, and after four months in storage there was nothing left," he said. "Because I could not store grains for a long time, I had to sell them when prices were low. Consequently, the production could not cover daily needs, including socio-economic needs such as marriages and naming ceremonies."