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Researchers Discover Impact of Modern Storage Technology on Adoption of Improved Maize Varieties in Southern Africa

a maize storage bin

It is widely known by farmers in Southern Africa that improved dent varieties of maize are higher yielding than traditional flint varieties. However, farmers also know that improved dent varieties are more susceptible to insect pests in storage than traditional flint varieties due to their open husks and softer kernels. Farmers face a rational trade-off at planting time. They must choose between a higher yielding but more pest susceptible dent variety, or a lower yielding but more pest resistant traditional flint variety. Feed the Future Food Processing and Post-Harvest Handling Innovation Lab, (FPL) researcher Dr. Jacob Ricker-Gilbert, Assistant Professor in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University and his former graduate student Michael Jones recently published an article in Food Policy that estimates how smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa make this decision.

Using data collected in Malawi, the researchers asked the question: are farmers who use modern storage technology (such as, actellic chemicals that kills insect pests in stored maize) after one season more likely to plant improved maize varieties the next season? Results of the study indicate that the average farmer who acquires storage chemicals is 6.6 to 9.0 percentage points more likely to adopt improved maize varieties and increase the share of total area planted to improved maize varieties by 7.7 to 9.9 percent the next year. This study shows a clear association between post-harvest technologies and subsequent planting decisions. It also raises the need to develop and promote the adoption of higher yielding varieties that store better.​​​

Read the full article through open access here.​​​​