Grain damage and spoilage due to insects is a food security and food safety issue. The challenge is to provide an inexpensive, safe, simple, and reliable way to prevent insects from damaging stored crops, without using any insecticides. Chemical fumigation has been the standard means to control insects in India and around the world, but it is costly, and insects have now developed resistance making it harder to control populations. Contact insecticides sprayed onto the grain have similar issues, as well as leaving residues on the grain, which is a potential food safety issue.
My dream has been to develop a device to safely prevent stored grain and seeds being ruined by insect attacks. However, even though my research, beginning in the year 1983 resulted in the development of simple gadgets for stored grain insect management (www.mohantrap.com), I was unable to create an effective solution.
However, this changed when, in January 2000, I was deputed to the Cereal Research Centre (CRC), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba under a World Bank scheme for Human Resource Development to be trained in my area of specialization under Dr. Paul Fields, Scientist, CRC, Canada.
Understanding my desire for innovation, Dr. Fields introduced me to the research by Dr. Quentin, M.E., and her team from Michigan State University (Quentin, M.E., J.L.Spencer and J.R.Miller, 1991. Bean tumbling as a control measure for the common bean weevil, Acanthoscelides obtectus (say) Entomol. Exp. Appl., 60: 105-109).
Soon after my return from Canada I started working on creating a machine to keep grain safe from insects. I received a lot of input from Dr. Paul Fields and Dr. M.E. Quentin, and successfully developed the machine, and filed a patent with Indian Patent office on 10.07.2002. The Patent was finally granted on 03.02.2006.
The machine has the capacity to remove eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult insects present in grains. As many insects have been reported to have developed a resistance to chemical fumigants, this machine is one of the best alternative strategies for insect control in stored grain.
The machine works by passing the grain through a perforated tube, equipped with brushes. The brushes remove the insects, eggs, larvae and pupae, which pass through the perforations in the tube, which are designed to ensure that the grain does not pass through them. The insects and the cleaned grain are then collected through separate outlets.
The machine comes in four different models, based on the amount of grain that can be cleaned per hour, namely, 50kg/h, 200kg/g, 1000kg/h, and 2000kg/h. The efficiency of the machine has been tested and documented in a paper, titled ‘Determining The Effectiveness Of Insect Egg Remover In Removal Of Adult Insect Stored In Grain”, published in the Asian Academic Research Journal Of Multidisciplinary (Issue 10, Volume 1).
To conclude, I am hopeful that this machine will result in an revolution in the way stored grain is kept insect free, not only in India, but also in other South East Asian countries.
Author: Dr. S. Mohan, Retired Professor, Tamil Agricultural University, Coimbatore.