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The purpose of any grain storage facility is to provide safe storage conditions for the
grain in order to prevent grain loss caused by adverse weather, moisture, rodents, birds,
insects and micro-organisms like fungi.

Safe storage conditions for grain

Safe storage of rice for longer periods is possible if three conditions are met:

Grain is maintained at moisture levels of 14% or less and seed is stored at 12% or less
Grain is protected from insects, rodents and birds
Grain is protected from re-wetting by rain or imbibing moisture from the surrounding

The longer the grain needs to be stored, the lower the required moisture content will need
to be. Grain and seed stored at moisture contents above 14% may experience the growth of
molds, rapid loss of viability and a reduction in eating quality. The following table shows the
safe moisture content required for different storage periods.

Storage period
Weeks to a few
months storage
4 to 12 months
Storage of farmers
Storage for more than
1 year

Required moisture
content for safe storage
14 % or less

Potential problems

13 % or less
12% or less

Molds, discoloration, respiration loss,

insect damage, moisture adsorption
Insect damage
Loss germination

9 % or less

Loss of germination

A rule of thumb for seed is that the life of the seed will be halved for every 1%
increase in moisture content or a 5 oC increase in storage temperature.

Grain Storage systems

Rice storage facilities take many forms depending on
(1) the quantity of grain to be stored
(2) the purpose of storage and
(3) the location of the store

Bag Storage

Bulk Storage

Storage by silos

In general, it is recommended that rice for food purposes be stored in paddy form
rather than milled rice as the husk provides some protection against insects and helps prevent
quality deterioration. However, when rice can be stored as brown rice, 20% less storage
capacity will be needed.
Different grains and components of grain have different weights. The following table

gives the approximate weight and volume for paddy rice and its milled components.
Bulk (kg/m3)

Bag (bags/ton)

Weight per bag (kg)

Paddy or rough rice




White rice




Bran or meal








To calculate the storage capacity for different types of storages, use the following
Square or rectangular bin:
Volume = (length x width x height) x bulk density

Tower silo with flat bottom

Volume = (22/7 x radius x height) x bulk density

Tower silo with cone bottom:

Volume cylinder= (22/7 x radius x height) + volume
of cone = (1/3 (22/7 x height)) x bulk density (kg/m2)

Grain pile on a pad

Volume (length x width x 0.73 (grain coefficient))

Conditions under tropical region, the life span of brown rice is about 2 weeks and it is too

The requirements for a good storage system

Prevention of moisture re-entering the grain after drying

Ease of loading and unloading.
Efficient use of space
Ease of maintenance and management.

Specific challenges in the humid tropics

Rice grain is hygroscopic and in open storage systems the grain moisture content will
eventually equilibrate with the surrounding air at the so called equilibrium moisture content
(EMC). High relative humidity and high temperatures typical for the humid tropical climate
lead to grains absorbing water in storage and to a high final moisture content.

Grain Storage systems

Grain storage systems can be classified as either bag or bulk. The new method of storage
is hermetic and it can be stored by bag or bulk inside air-tight container.

Bag storage system

In most parts of Asia grain is stored in 40-80 kg bags made from either jute or woven

Systematically Stored Bags

Hermetic IRRI Super Bag

Depending on the size of storage, these bags are normally formed into a stack. When
using bag storage consideration needs to be given to the following:

Jute bags should not be stacked higher than 4m and plastic bags 3m. Plastic bags are
more slippery and the stacks will be less stable
Bags should be stacked under cover e.g. under a roof, in a shed or granary or under
water proof tarpaulins
A one meter gap should be left between and around stacks and 1.5 meters clearance
between the top of the stack and the roof
Bags should be stacked on pallets or on an above ground structure to avoid the
possibility of absorbing moisture from the floor.
Bags should not be stacked on a bed of rice husks or bags filled with rice husks, as
these are difficult to keep free from insect infestation.
Bags should be stacked so that fumigation can be undertaken easily. The dimensions
of the stacks should be set to facilitate sealing with a single fumigation sheet.
The efficiency of bag storage can be improved if a plastic liner bag is used inside the
existing storage bag especially for seed and milled rice

Some farmers use bag storage in outside granaries, which have been constructed from
timber or mud/cement or large woven bamboo or palm leaves.

Bulk storage
Farm level storage
At farm level grain is often stored in bulk in small outside granaries or in woven
baskets or containers made from wood, metal or concrete, which are located under or inside
the house. These storages vary in capacity from 200-1000 kg. Losses from insects, rodents,
birds and moisture uptake are usually high in traditional bulk storage systems.

Wooden warehouse

Bamboo warehouse

Bamboo basket height 3 ft, radius 1 m

Clay pot height 2 m, radius (widest

and hold 500 kg.

place) 0.5 m

Muddy house - height = 1.5 m, width =

Wooden basket - height = 1.5 m, width

2 m, capacity = > 500 kg

= 2 m, capacity = > 500 kg

Clay pot ranks - capacity lowest pot = 30 kg, middle pot = 20 kg, topmost pot =

15 kg

Door of wooden basket

Toddy leaf box - (small size) - height = 0.5 m,

length = 0.25 m, capacity = 10 kg

Straw basket - capacity 100 kg

Bamboo basket

Steel Dam (Bhutan)

Concrete Container (Bhutan)

Clay pot (Bangladesh)

Commercial Storage

The large export mills and collection houses sometimes use metal or concrete silos.
These silos range in size from 20 to 2,000 ton capacity. Silos have the advantage that they
can be more easily sealed for fumigation and less grain is spilt or wasted. Bulk storage
warehouses are not very common in Asia.

Hermetic storage systems

Sealed or hermetic storage systems are a very effective means of controlling grain
moisture content and insect activity for grain stored in tropical regions.
By placing an airtight barrier between the grain and the outside atmosphere, the
moisture content of the stored grain will remain the same as when the storage was sealed.
Biological activity inside the sealed container will consume the oxygen and as a result most
insects will die. Hermetic storage provides moisture and insect control without pesticides.

Using local containers

Hermetic storage or sealed storage involves enclosing the grains in an air-tight
container that minimizes gas exchange from the surrounding air with the inter-granular
atmosphere inside the container. Benefits of hermetic storage include insect control without
pesticides, high germination rates of seeds even after one year of storage and high milling

How work hermetic storage

Once the container has sealed, moisture content of grain can be controlled.
Respiration by the grain and insects inside the storage, change the inter-granular atmosphere
by consuming oxygen and expiring carbon dioxide. Depending on the number of insects, and
type and size of the system, oxygen levels will be reduced from 21% to less than 10% within
a short period of time. At oxygen levels below 10%, insects are curtailed and ensure the
viability of seed. As biological activity inside the container is reduced, hermetic storage can
help milling quality.

Advantages of Hermetic Storage

Hermetic storage can improve grain quality and viability of grain because they can
retain the moisture that has stored before and can reduce the number of insects without using
pesticides. Seeds can be stored safely for 9-12 months and high germination rate, increasing
10% grain when milling can be obtained. It can also reduce the damage of birds and rodents.
Storing seeds in air-conditioned room is still the best way. However, it cost is high
when invested and worked. Hermetic storage is another way especially for rural areas where
air-conditioned room cannot do and this method is a cheap one to extend the viability of

Why use locally available containers?

There are commercial hermetic storage products like the Cocoons and the IRRI
Super bags. However, in rural settings there are often no supply chains yet allowing farmers
access to these commercial solutions. In local markets there are often containers available
that can be easily converted into a hermetic storage system and thus allowing farmers to
benefit from hermetic storage even if they cannot buy the commercial solutions yet.

Examples of hermetic storage using local containers

On principle any solid container that can be sealed air tight can be used. If the
material is porous like that of clay pot it needs to be sealed e.g. using latex paint in the inside
and the outside.
CAUTION: Plastic film (plastic bags) are very thin and have high oxygen permeability.
Normal plastic bags, e.g. polyethylene bags that can be bought for various purposes let
too much oxygen pass through the material. They are therefore not hermetic in the
sense of hermetic storage. The IRRI Super bag is made from a special plastic
composition that minimizes the oxygen permeability.

How to store your grain hermetically using local containers

Make sure to follow the steps below. If you use a container that contained chemicals
or oil before clean it thoroughly. Make sure that the container does not have any holes or

Clean the seed or grain and dry to the correct moisture content. (seed 12%, grain
Place seed or grain in the clean container.
Fill the container completely with seeds to avoid dead air space, the more air is inside
the slower the oxygen drops.
Seal the container air tight:
When using a container with a screw top or press fitted closer use grease or silicon to
seal the opening.
When using clay pots or vessels made from porous material, paint inside and outside
of the container with latex paint.
Store the containers either undercover or in the shade.
Keep the container closed until you need to use the grain/seeds. Use it all at once.


Opening and closing frequently the containers which have grains make oxygen reenter and cause the insect damage that can cause egg stage to larval stage.
As half-full containers may have oxygen, insects may not be killed.

What is IRRI Super Bag?

The IRRI Super bag makes the principle of hermetic storage available to farmers and
processors at low cost. The IRRI Super bag is a farmer-friendly storage bag that allows cereal
grains and other crops (e.g., maize or coffee) to be safely stored for extended periods. The
Super bag fits as a liner inside existing storage bags (e.g., woven polypropylene or jute bags).

Why is a Super Bag important and how does it work?

Relative to traditional storage systems, Super Bags have the following benefits:
1. Extend the germination life of seed for planting from 6 to 12 months,
2. Control insect grain pests (without using chemicals), and
3. Improve the head rice recovery of stored grain typically by 10%.
Super bags reduce the flow of both oxygen and water between the stored grain or seed
and the outside atmosphere. When properly sealed, respiration of grain and insects inside the
bag reduce oxygen levels from 21% to 5%. This reduction reduces live insects to less than 1
insect/kg of grain without using insecticides - often within 10 days of sealing.
The stability of controlled grain moisture inside the bag prevents wetting and drying of grain.
This stability reduces the extent of grain cracking and so head rice recoveries are higher upon

How do you use a Super Bag?

The super bag is presently designed to store up to around 50 kg of grain or seed.
Six steps for setting up a Super bag
1. Make sure that the grains or seeds are properly dried:
o Dry grain to less than 14%
o Dry seed to less than 12%
2. Place the super bag inside an existing type of storage bag (e.g., woven polypropylene
or jute bags).
3. Fill the super bag with dried seed or grain.
4. Remove excess air. Close the opening by twisting the free plastic portion above
the grain and fold it in two.
5. Tie off the twist with a strong rubber band or adhesive tape
6. Close the outer bag, taking care not to puncture the Super Bag.

1. Place the super bag as a liner inside an 2. Fill bag with dry grain or seed.
existing storage bag (woven polypropylene
or jute bag)

3. Remove excess air and twist.

5. Fold plastic over and seal with either
4. Close the opening by twisting the free strong rubber band or tape
plastic portion above the grain and fold it in 6. Close the outer bag, taking care not to
puncture the Super Bag.

Don't overfill.
Don't puncture or damage.
Never carry the grain by holding on to the Super bag, always use the outer bag for
Seal properly.
Check after some days. If there are insects inside the bag it is not sealed properly.
Check for leaks and re-seal.

What is CocoonTM ?

The Cocoon is a commercially available hermetic storage container that consists of

two plastic halfs that are joined together with an air-tight zipper after the cocoon is loaded
with sacks of the commodity to be stored.

Why is a Cocoon important and how does it work?

Compared to traditional storage systems, Cocoons have the following benefits:
1. Extend the germination life of seeds,
2. Control insect grain pests without chemicals and
3. Improve the head rice recovery of stored grain.

Cocoons reduce the flow of both oxygen and water between the stored grain or seed and
the outside atmosphere. When properly sealed, respiration of grain and insects inside the bag
reduce oxygen levels from 21% to 5%. This reduction reduces live insects to less than 1
insect/kg of grain without using insecticides - often within 10 days of sealing. The stablized
moisture inside the cocoon prevents wetting and drying of grain. This reduces the extent of
grain cracking and so head rice recoveries are higher upon milling.

How to store your grain in a cocoon

For details on how to load the Cocoon refer to the manufacturers manual. They come in
different sizes and configurations e.g. for bulk or bag storage. Some general guidelines

Clean the seed or grain and dry to the correct moisture content. (seed 12%, grain
14%). Use a moisture meter.
Make sure the Cocoon is clean and undamaged.
Seal the Cocoon according to the manufactures recommendation.
Store the containers either undercover or in the shade.
Use an oxygen meter to measure oxygen content inside the cocoon, first daily and
once the oxygen has dropped weekly to monitor that the Cocoon is properly sealed.

Management Issues
While the technology is simple users sometimes still have bad experiences when the oxygen
levels are higher than expected. This is often due to poor management. The following points
are important.

Intermittent opening and closing allows oxygen re-entry which can lead to the rapid
re-infestation of some insects such as lesser grain borer which can pierce plastic
Cocoons can be damaged by rodents if not managed correctly. Pull plastic liners tight
and keep a clear space around the containers.
Mechanical damage or placing cigarette buts on the Cocoon can also damage it.

Storage hygiene


Good hygiene in the grain store or storage depot is important in maintaining grain and
seed quality.
Guidelines for storage hygiene

Keep storage areas clean. This means sweeping the floor, removing cobwebs and
dust, and collecting and removing any grain spills.
Clean storage rooms after they are emptied and this may include spraying walls,
crevices and wooden pallets with an insecticide before using them again
Placing rat-traps and barriers in drying and storage areas. Cats deter and help control
rats and mice
Inspect storage room regularly to keep it vermin proof.

Inspect the stored seeds once a week for signs of insect infestation.
When necessary and only under the direction of a trained pest control technician, the
storage room or the seed stock may be sealed with tarpaulin and treated with

Storing dirty and mess can attract insects and rodents

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