In this blog, I want to talk to bulk grain and legume handlers who include farmers that harvest lots of grains, traders at our border crossing points in East Africa who import and export grains in bulk, grain store managers who store grains and legumes as they wait for peak season, and grain transporters who move our grains from the source to various markets. I want to address people who handle so much grain that they require sacks for proper storage.

A hermetically sealed PICS bag. Image courtesy of Purdue University

Every grain and legume buyer goes to the market with an intention of buying clean, good quality, and healthy grains for food or planting. This presents a challenge to most vendors who might have failed to handle their grain properly in order to attain the required standards. As we all know, quality begins from the farm where the grain is harvested, passed on to all handlers, and ultimately, to the consumer.

In the SAWBO video: “Properly Storing Dried Grains and Legumes Using Hermetically Sealed Bags,” we are taught how to store grains without using chemicals. To fully understand this animated video, I encourage you to watch it severally, and put the knowledge into practice. The video gives you tips on how to cut down on post-harvest and handling losses, get maximum profit, and enhance the quality and quantity of your grains.

Grains and legumes can be stored for long periods using hermetically sealed Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags. These bags help prevent insect and mold damage during storage. The PICS bag technique is used to store maize, beans, rice, soy, and other grains and legumes by sealing them in an airtight triple bagging system developed in the USA by Purdue University.

I would like to draw the attention of grain and legume handlers to the fact that the PICS bag technology uses no chemicals and protect grains because they use the right type of plastic which makes them airtight when closed properly. Consumers could develop health complications and reactions when they consume grains and legumes stored using chemicals.

What are PICS bags?

PICS bags consist of two inner poly bags fitted inside an outer woven bag. Using these airtight bags, you can store grains and legumes for many months providing safe food for the family, seed for planting, and grain for selling.

The four steps in using PICS bags

There are four important steps to follow while using PICS bags;

1.         Inspect

Inspect your grain to make sure it’s well dried in the sun, free from pests, dirt, and pebbles. Remove all rotten, discolored grain and foreign objects while inspecting. Test your grain to ensure the right moisture content.

Separate all three layers of the PICS bag and inspect for any rips, tears, and holes. Make sure the layers do not have even small holes and tears which can allow insects and mold into the grains. Fill the two inner bags with air and hold the open end to make sure no air is escaping to ensure there are no holes. Make sure the bags are dry and clean before using.

2.         Fill

Filling these bags with grains and legumes is an interesting process whose steps need to be followed. Start by placing a smaller amount of grain in the first poly bag. Then insert the first poly-bag into the second poly-bag, and insert both in the outer woven bag. At this point, you should continue filling the inside bag while shaking from side to side to pack the grain and get rid of any trapped air. Do not fill the bag to the top because you need room to seal the bags.   

3.         Seal

To seal the first poly-bag, twist it until it’s tightly packed against the grains pressing out any   air. Tie the bag as tightly as possible with a string, once you have gotten out as much air as possible. Seal the second poly-bag the same way by twisting the top until it’s tight against the inner bag, then tie it tight with a string. Seal the outer woven bag the same way you sealed the poly bags.   

4.         Store

After inspecting your grains and filling and sealing the PICS bags, do not store the bags in direct sunlight. Keep your storage area clean to avoid rodents, avoid storing them against the wall, and avoid opening bags during storage. However, if you must open your sealed PICS bag, be sure to reseal it as quickly as possible following the same steps used before to reduce exposure to the air.

PICS bags can be reused for more than one season and can typically last for three storage cycles. Remember, it’s very important that the bags be free from any holes and tears before you use them again. However, punctured, and torn PICS bags can be used for other purposes like growing vertical gardens.

In summary, using PICS bags to store grains have the following advantages:

1.         Keeps grain safe from insects and mold growth.

2.         The good quality grain fetches higher prices on the market.

3.         Allows you to store your grain without using pesticides making it safer to eat and saving you money.

Hermetic Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags are manufactured and distributed in Kenya by Bell Industries which has branches across the country. For more information on where to purchase PICS bags please contact:

Main office:

Main office:

Crawford Business Park

1st Floor State House Road

P.O. Box 18603-00500 Nairobi, Kenya.

Tel: 020-2368703

Mobile: +254 733 764 562, +254 722 806 861

info@bellindustrieskenya.com