Determination of Postharvest Losses in Maize Production in the Upper West Region of Ghana
Maize is one of the most important cereal crops in Ghana; however, postharvest loss is a major setback to its production. Farmers, transporters and warehouse managers’ practices along the handling chain result in major losses of the grain. Therefore, we sought, in this study, to determine the postharvest practices that caused losses in maize in of Upper West Region of Ghana. The research was in three phases:(1) A field survey where questionnaires were administered to 100 farmers, 30 transporters and 12 warehouse managers, (2) yield loss assessment that determined the per cent grain losses during harvesting, shelling and winnowing, loading and offloading, transportation, foreign debris and weevil infestation and (3) the effects of shelling methods on physical characteristics (stress crack, kernel weight and true kernel density) of maize grain. The survey revealed that majority (68%) of farmers used mechanical shelling and shelled directly into sacks without further cleaning which resulted in high foreign material in the grains. Estimated farmer handling losses were 8.33%, while transportation to the warehouses recorded losses of 0.30%, warehouse operations15.74% losses, giving total handling losses of 24.37%. An average moisture content of 10.07% was recorded at the end of a seven-month storage period and there were significant variations (P ≤0.05) among communities studied. The stress cracks in manually and mechanically shelled grains recorded 29% and 6%, respectively. The average kernel weight, volume and true density for grains in the study area were 31.03 g, 23.69 cm3 and 1.31 g/cm3, respectively, which indicated maize kernels stored in the region were hard and susceptible to stress cracks during shelling. Estimated economic losses along the handling chain amounted to GHȻ1,106.96. We conclude that postharvest losses are quite high and if nothing is done to reduce that, could worsen food security situation in the already challenged region of Ghana.
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