After harvesting

Safely storing yields

The statistical data reveal an extensive spread, but one aspect appears to be certain: depending on region and type of culture, significant crop yields are lost after harvesting, particularly in regions with supply problems. These losses determine whether firms operate profitably and in many cases even whether people go hungry.

"The losses amount to 15-25 percent on average, and anywhere from over 40 percent up to and including total loss in exceptional years", is how Martin Gummert describes the quantitative situation for rice cultivation. Due to the low harvest qualities, the post-harvest expert of the Manila/Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates the related market loss to be 10 to 30 percent.

The market alone is not currently creating sufficient incentives for rice growers to produce more efficiently. According to Gummert, vertically integrated value-adding chains could help, but "risks such as monopolisation have to be avoided".

The "Sustainable Rice Platform" run jointly by the IRRI and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is fostering sustainable rice cultivation. The platform's successes include "hermetic storage". This relatively simple procedure with a system for storing quantities from 30 litres to 300 tonnes prevents the exchange of humidity and gas (oxygen) between the storage facility and the atmosphere. In tropical countries, the procedure has proved suitable for seed and harvests.

Prevention of pests
In Germany, post-harvest losses in the middle single-digit percent range are the benchmark. Scientists from the Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, the Max Rubner Institute and the Julius Kühn Institute break down the losses in a conservative scenario as follows: losses due to pre-cleaning 1.7 percent and storage 0.15 percent. The natural respiration of the harvested crops (metabolism) amounts to 0.85 percent, and 0.15 are lost during retrieval from storage. The scientific report to the Federal Government puts losses due to pests at 1.96 percent. In summary, the study arrives at a figure of around 5 percent post-harvest losses for Germany.

The temperature and humidity of the harvested crops and the same parameters in the entire storage facility form the central parameters for grain and oilseed. Poor conditions foster microbiological burdens due to moulds. DLG Information Leaflet (425) "Storing grain securely" states: "Measures to prevent pests such as the grain weevil take absolute priority over control". The DLG experts' basic rule is that the best pest is the one that does not get into the storage facility in the first place. "Whoever designs his operation hostile to pests will suffer fewer calamities later."

Regularly checking parameters
The DLG Information Leaflet qualifies this by stating that the introduction of insect pests can only be avoided completely in gas-tight silo cells or chambers without any residual grain. Insects did not develop in dry stored cereals with a temperature of less than 10°C; even mites only reproduced very slowly - assuming sufficient humidity. The main problem starts with the microclimate that fosters harmful organisms. This is controllable by controlling the three factors of dust, heat and humidity. Regularly checking the temperature remains vital. When the temperature rises, the alarm bells should sound: "Rising temperatures in the stored products indicate infestation with beetles, mites or moulds", warn the DLG Competence Center Agriculture's volunteer experts. 

Ears open for beetles
For a long time, the use of insecticides was the last resort to prevent major damage when pests managed to get into the storage facility. Many active substances, particularly those that farmers are allowed to use themselves, are no longer approved. Researchers at the Julius Kühn Institute are testing a method to differentiate and diagnose beetle infestations at an early stage. The "beetle sound tube system" detects the pests' feeding and crawling sounds. The tube can be used to introduce ichneumon flies into the grain silo. These lay their eggs in the larvae of the corn weevils and the growing ichneumon fly eats the early stages of the beetles. Once their work is done and no more food is available, the (dead) ichneumon flies can be simply removed by cleaning the grain.    

Such cutting-edge technologies are suitable for farmers in highly developed (agricultural) regions, since they can only be used with corresponding infrastructure. Elsewhere, simple methods help to safeguard yields after harvesting. More stable sacks through which pests are unable to penetrate are an 'instrument' that farmers in less developed regions (can) use to ensure that pests stay away from their harvested crops. Farmers are responsible for nutrition, whether using simple or complex methods. "Global Farming - Local Responsibility", the leitmotif of AGRITECHNICA 2019, puts this universal requirement in a nutshell.


  • Worldwide post-harvesting losses are considerable
  • Germany reveals losses of around 5 percent for grain
  • Prevention is better than cure
  • Controlling storage parameters
  • Simple and complex international protection methods

Responsibility for a limited resource

Irrigation in practice

What do farmers in rural Brandenburg and producers in northern Namibia have in common? One answer might be "A lot of sand in their soil". Which is true. The answer "Not a lot of water" would also be correct. However, what is true for globally networked agriculture as a whole particularly applies to both of these cases: while the challenges may bear some similarity, they can only be overcome locally. (A lack of) water is a prime example of this.  [learn more]

Soil under pressure

Approaches for its protection

The definition leaves no room for doubt: "Central basis of life for plants and directly or indirectly for human beings and animals." But it was clear even before the entry in the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia: the soil is the basis for everything. And the reason why it must be protected can already be derived from this realisation. One of the threats, if not the most important one, is erosion, i.e. the loss of fertile soil through wind or water. [learn more]

A clever and mixed approach is needed

Sustainable crop protection as a solution

Human medicine shows the way. The times of "more helps more" are long gone, if they ever existed at all. It is no different with crop protection. Today, it is not unusual for many farmers to combine state-of-the-art active substances and traditional but optimised methods of weed and pest control - even on individual fields [learn more]

Help from above

Intelligently networking digital systems

"It almost certainly won't be less work initially", says Prof. Patrick Ole Noack putting paid to any wishful thinking: the scientist refers to digital crop production, including instruments such as satellites and drones along with sensor systems, as "indication systems". [learn more]

After harvesting

Safely storing yields

The statistical data reveal an extensive spread, but one aspect appears to be certain: depending on region and type of culture, significant crop yields are lost after harvesting, particularly in regions with supply problems. These losses determine whether firms operate profitably and in many cases even whether people go hungry. [learn more]


Fertiliser management for the pros

Due to the fertiliser ordinance, the subject of "fertilisation" is more present than ever, and that far beyond the roundtables. Everyone is talking about it, but not everyone bases what they say on facts, and on a political level there are indications of further restrictions. [learn more]

Setting off to a new world

Innovatively managing process chains

In all honesty: The term "process chains" is only partially accurate. Strictly speaking, the chains are interlinked and form a Network - if everything goes well. [learn more]

New knowledge for the world

DLG-AgrifutureLab with agricultural start-ups

For start-ups based in Germany, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWI) encourages participation in a joint stand. There, as in the AgrifutureLab and the related Start-Up Wall, it's a matter during the AGRITECHNICA from 12 to 18 November of the right people meeting each other. [learn more]

New intelligence in the field

Robotics and swarm technology

Larger working widths, more powerful engines or greater throughput - quantitative growth was and is an important aspect in (agricultural) technology. And even if not everyone admits it: Besides the usefulness, it's also a matter of appreciation of the sheer size. Thomas Herlitzius and his team are taking a different route. [learn more]