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close this bookEnvironmentally Sound Technologies for Women in Agriculture (IIRR, 1996, 213 p.)
close this folderSeed production and storage
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentProduce your own wheat, rice and pulse seeds
View the documentStorage of grain and seed
View the documentSafe grain storage structures
View the documentImproved rodent-free grain storage

Storage of grain and seed

About 70 percent of grain is retained by farmers for food, feed, seed, and sale or barter. During storage, grain declines in quality and quantity. These losses are caused by insects, rodents, birds, mould, heat, and spillage. Here are some simple methods which farm women can use to safely store grain. (See Safe grain storage structures )


If you keep grain in cloth or gunny bags, open the windows of the storeroom during dry, sunny weather to allow ventilation.

Before storage

- Dry and clean your grain. The length of time needed to dry the grain will depend on the weather. Bite a grain to test its moisture content: if it cracks when you bite it, it is dry enough to store. If possible, dry the grain on a cement floor or hard, smooth, crack-free floor. Otherwise use plastic sheets or tarpaulins spread on the ground.

- Stir or turn the grain occasionally for uniform drying.

- Cover the grain to protect it from dusty winds.

- Clean and disinfect the storage structure remove all dirt and debris.

- Bird-proof the grain storage structure by stretching nets or wire mesh over the openings.


- Store only clean, dry, unbroken grain which is free from foul smell.

- Do not store grain in loose heaps or in damaged bags. Use gunny bags or bins.

- Store the grain away from wet areas.

- Do not place grain sacks near walls. Store grain sacks raised above the ground. This prevents entry of moisture from the walls and ground.

- Do not mix old grain with new grain. Also, do not store grain from a new crop near the grain from an old crop.

- Mix your grain with dried kernels of neem or use other plants with insecticidal effects, such as pyrethrum.


After storage


- Inspect the grain regularly for insects, rodents, and other pests. Take appropriate preventive measures. (See other sections in this manual.)

- From time to time, spread the grain in the sun. Spray with insecticides only if a large number of insects are detected.

- Regularly test the grain for moisture and re-dry when necessary.

- Keep storage structures and surroundings clean.

Seed storage

Generally there is a gap of 7-10 months from the time of harvest until the crop's next sowing. Depending on the crop, the seed produced in one season must be saved for planting in the next season. The quality of the seed at the time of sowing depends on the quality of the seed that entered storage and how well it was stored.


Seed does not improve in storage. So, if you start with inferior seed, then you will end with inferior seed, no matter how much care you take.

Quality seed

Good quality seeds:

- germinate well.
- are free from dirt and seeds of other plants.
- are free from disease.


Do not eat grain that has been treated with chemicals such as Celphos (aluminium phosphide).

Seed grain needs special care

- Seed grain must be dried and cleaned more thoroughly than food grains before storage.

- During storage, use chemicals such as Celphos (aluminium phosphide) for seeds-but not for grains intended for consumption. Celphos is banned for food grains. One tablet of Celphos will treat 100 kg of seed. Place the tablet at the bottom of the seed container. It gives off a gas which keeps insects in check. The gas given off by Celphos is extremely harmful. After treatment, spread the seeds in the sun to allow the gas to escape, then wash the seeds with water and dry them in the sun.

- Do not disturb the seeds, but check them regularly for damage. If disease or pest damage is found, clean and disinfect the seeds.

- Try to keep seed bins airtight.

- Seeds to be stored in small quantities, such as vegetable seed, can be placed in a cloth bag inside a polythene bag. Tie the bags tightly.

Where to store seed

- Store seed separately from the grain crop. Store the seed in a room or bin made of stone, brick, or cement.

- Before sowing, test germination. Take 100 seeds at random. Put them in moist sand. At least 85 of the 100 seeds should germinate. If fewer than this number germinate, increase the amount of seed you sow.


Seeds of certain crops store better unshelled, such as: maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut, cowpea, and sunflower. Shell these just before sowing.

Keep your seeds dry, cool, clean, and safe from pests. Check your seed stock regularly for moisture and pest damage.

Storage procedure

- Harvest the seed crop separately at the time of proper field maturity. Harvest seed only from healthy uniform plants.

- Thresh the seed gently to avoid damaging the seed coats. Remove broken, damaged, or diseased seeds, seeds of weeds and other crops, chaff, straw, soil, and other matter.

- Dry the seed thoroughly by spreading it uniformly over a clean sheet, or pucca floor made of stone, brick, or cement.

- Bite a few seeds to test for moisture content. Seeds which are hard to crack are dry enough for storage.

- Place the clean, dry seed in clean bags-gunny bags, hessian bags, or cloth bags-or plastic containers, metal bins, earthen pots, or mud-plastered bamboo bins.

- Spread a layer of sand, straw, or wood ash at the bottom of the container. This will help to keep the seed dry.

- Place dry neem leaves in the bags or containers. Neem controls insect infestation, especially in pulses which are easily damaged by insects.

- Seal the lid of containers with a mud pack mixed with linseed oil.

Maintenance of the seed store

- Dry seed bags in the sun at least every 3 or 4 months.

- Regularly inspect your seed.

- If the seed of any crop shows signs of insect infestation, remove it from the store.

- Clean and dry the infested seed and its container. Store this seed in a separate place for 2 to 3 weeks. Check for reappearance of insects. Return it to the storeroom only if it remains free from insects.

- Empty and fumigate the seed store at least twice a year and seal it with cow dung cake and straw to keep it dry and free from insects.

- Inspect the storeroom roof before the rainy season.

Contributors: Dr. Malvika Dadlani, Dr. A. Alam and Dr. K.S. Sckhon