Keeping in mind the importance and high demand of cereals for consumption, their proper storage must not be neglected. The post-harvest damage caused during storage is mainly due to infestation by storage pest causes huge quality losses in food grains combined with economic losses. This damage may be due to direct feeding of grains by insects and pests or by microbiological agents like fungi and bacteria.

The post-harvest losses of food grains and oilseeds are estimated to be 10 to 20 per cent in India (Chahal, 2011).  India experiences severe losses in storage of food grains, as per the official records economic loss to the tune of 11,700 tons of food grains was reported to have occurred in the government godowns during 2010 alone (Chahal, 2011). Through use of proper pest management practices the above storage losses can be minimized effectively. Different causative agents are moulds and insects which cause economic and quality losses during storage, some of the methods practiced by rural house-holds from ancient times and use of some plant products for safe and economic storage of food grains along with detailed procedure are being discussed here in this article.

Types of pest causing infestation: 

Fungi: Fungi are plant like organisms and spores are single cell bodies through which they reproduce themselves and it almost impossible to kept the spores away from environment. It is very difficult to identify the stage of fungal infection in stored grains. Infection spread through the spores, which present in the atmosphere everywhere and move by wind and insects. Blackening of grains and pungent smell are some of the obvious indicators of fungi infestation. Grain quality, texture, and taste completely altered and also food items acquire bad taste and decreased nutritious quality. Humidity and non-aerated storage space are main reasons of fungal infection. Proper drying of the stored product is the only solution to avoid the infection because even at high temperature at the place of storage do not completely kill the spores due to their strong viability.

Insects: Insect’s demands for the survival are food, water and air which all are furnished properly in the environment where stored grains are generally kept. Beetles and moths are two main types of insects which generally infest pulses and stored grains. The larvae of both groups insects are totally unlike, they look like little worms even its difficult to identify them because some of them infest within the kernel. Store only undamaged whole seed as much as possible because broken kernel invites secondary and tertiary insects for damage and possibility of larvae development of primary insect inside the kernel may be also there so even a hole in the grain lead to total loss of grains.

Important insect pests of stored food grains

Common name

Hindi name

Storage grains attacked

Flour mite

 आटा घुन

Cereals, cereal products, dried fruits, tobacco

Pulse weevil  

 दलहन घुन

Many pulses including kidney bean

Cowpea weevil

लोबि‍या घुन 


Southern cowpea beetle

लोबि‍या भृगं 

Many pulses including soybean

Pulse beetle

 दलहन भृगं

Many pulses except soybean and kidney bean

Rice moth

धान का शल्‍भ 

Rice, Maize, Soybean, Groundnut, Cacao, Dried Fruits, Copra, Flour

Rusty grain beetle  

 अनाज का भूरा ति‍ल्‍लचटटा

Maize, Wheat

Tropical warehouse moth

 उष्‍णकटीबंधीय गोदाम कीट

Rice, Maize, Mungbean, Soybean, Groundnut, Flour, Dried Fruits, Copra

Indian meal moth

 अनाज का चूरा शल्‍भ

Rice, Wheat, Maize, Sorghum

Australian wheat borer

ऑस्ट्रेलियाई गेहूं भेदक

  Paddy, Rice, Maize, Sorghum, Root crops

Rice weevil, black weevil

 धान का घुन

Rice, Maize, Wheat, Sorghum, Pulses

Angoumois grain moth

 अंगोमोइस अनाज पतंग

Paddy, Wheat, Maize

Red flour beetle

 लाल आटा भृंग

All cereals, starch, pulses, oilseeds, spices

Red weevil

 लाल घुन

All cereals, starch, pulses, oilseeds, spices 

Rodents are another agents which  cause much damage to the stored grains through consuming it directly as food, causing hole in the jute bags lead to big losses of seeds, by spoiling the quality of food grains through their droppings, rodents are also carriers of some harmful diseases which spread among the humankind through eating and handling and contaminated grain. Infesters of this category are also not restricted by temperature and moisture conditions. Their control is possible only through mechanical barriers and by using chemical treatment.

House hold measures to control losses during storage:

Household practices using locally available plant products are efficiently used for protection of food grains as they have advantage over scientific methods because of their low cost or easy availability. It comes from the combination of skills and knowledge of local peoples which they acquire through their interaction with environment and experiences. By using household products quality of the grain for feeding purposes will not be compromised. Nature bestowed human beings with such plants which possess so many medicinal and herbal properties like neem (Azadirachta indica), turmeric (Haldi), Tulsi etc. Drying the storage space is another main alternative. Here are the some home strategies adopted for the protection of food grains.

Traditional practices:

Since ancient times the use of natural resources for safe storage of food grains is adopted by rural peoples. The basis behind the use of these resources is very simple like they are user friendly, easily available and directly associated with scientific reasoning. These practices are generally based on locally accessible and available natural resources. An effort is made here on the collection of traditional methods used by rural peoples.

Neem leaves as pest control agent:

Neem leaves are widely used to repel the pest from stored food grains. Collect fresh leaves from plant and dry them in shade, directly mix in food grains and sealed the container in which grains are stored. It is safe, cheap and effective method. Thumbai and neem leaves used as pest protectant abundantly by south Indian farmers for storage of Ragi food grain.

Turmeric (Haldi):

Turmeric powder is another good alternative which can be used at the rate of 40gm per kg of grains. Rub the grains gently with turmeric powder and shade dried for half an hour before storage. Turmeric can be used in raw form also for protection. Its strong smell and insecticidal properties keep the insects away from food grains.  This treatment give a long lasting protection from the pest attack and equally safe for consumption.

 Use of spices:

Sometimes local practices used by women also provide protection of food grains like to place two red chilies in the stored items. Insecticidal properties of garlic stops the multiplication rate of insects hence control the infestation. Cloves of garlic placed in layers in rice and tightly close the containers where stored food items are kept. Bitterness of cloves kept the insects out of reach, put them on top of the storage item and sealed the container properly.

Sweet flag Rhizomes use as pest control agent:

Take 1 kg of sweet rhizomes for 50 kg of grains. Make it powdered and put in a cloth pouch which should be placed in the container where grains are stored.

Salt used as preservative as well as pest protectant:

Since ancient time salt was used as preservative in various food items to avoid fungal and bacterial infections. Salt act as abrasive for insect skin and prevent its entry into stored grains. 200 gm of salt is mixed with 1 kg of red gram grain manually and then grains are stored in jute gunny bags and stitched properly. However, it is found that this method is very effective and affordable but only for short duration like 4 or 5 months only. Storage of tamarind was being followed from such a long time by Indian farmers. After harvest, tamarind was removed from the pods and stored in pots in layers.  10 gm of salt is used for a 1 kg of tamarind and spread between the layers uniformly. It stops the infestation of pest attack like beetles, Indian meal moth etc. and also help in loosening of tamarind flesh.

Lime treatment:

Farmers use another cheap and easily available source lime (calcium carbonate) for pest control. Powder the lime and mix it uniformly with rice grains and stored them in gunny bags at dry place. Its irritating smell keeps insects away and prevents them to multiply. Generally 10 gm of lime is used to treat 1 kg of grains. This treatment provides long lasting protection against pest attack

Ash treatment for pest control:

Routinely used since old time by farmers. They pour the pulses in earthen mud pots and filled its 3/4 volume and then remaining 1/4 is covered with ash (wood/cow dung). Through this treatment grains will protected for 6 months. After six month again drying the grains under sunlight and place them in pots with same treatment. Wheat grains are also stored by mixing with cow dung ash which is desiccative and insecticidal in nature.

Matchbox use as repellent against pest infestation:

Its almost oldest method used by ladies at houses for storage of food grains and still use effectively. They keep match boxes in layers. Generally 6-8 matchboxes kept at the middle, bottom and top of the container and tightly close the lid of the container. Phosphorous in the matchsticks have strong repellent properties which help to avoid the infestation.

Other popularly used plant products for safe storage of food grains  

 Common name

Used against


Greater galangal (kulanjan or Siamese ginger)

S. zeamais and T. castaneum

Visetson 1994

Black pepper (Kaali mirch)

C. chinensis  

Morallo-Rejesus et al. 1990

Ginger (Adarak)

C. chinensis and T. castaneum  

Ho, 1990

Sugar apple, custard apple (Meetha seb)

Leaf extract inhibits  growth of S. cerealella

Grainge and Ahmed 1988

Himalayan cedar(wood)

Wood oil as grain protectant against rice, weevil

Singh et al., 1989

Indian privet (shrubs or jhadhi)

Leaves used against  stored grain pests

Ahmed & Koppel 1987

Inert materials

Ash (wood)

Rice weevil

Kanta et al.,   1991

Charcoal (wooden coal)

Place in rice container to protect against rice weevil

Kanta et al., 1989

Salt (Nacl or Namak)

Safe storage of basmati rice

Jilani and Su1993

Magnesium carbonate


Protectant of wheat seed against Trogoderma granarium

Saramma and Verma 1993

Ash (burnt rice husk)

Mix with rice to protect against weevil

Kanta et al., 1989

Plant products used in processed form:

Neem Seed Kernel Extract (NSKE):

  1. For 10 % NSKE solution one need 1 kg neem kernel powder in 10 liters of water
  2. Take 1 kg neem kernel and make into powder, collect powder in a cloth pouch and soak the [pouch in 10 liters of water overnight
  3. Next morning squeeze the pouch into the water to get the extract
  4. Dip gunny bags into this solution for half an hour, dry in shade and use for grain storage
  5. Never dry the gunny bags in direct sunlight

Neem oil:

One of the familiar and traditional practices followed by farmers for pest control is use of neem oil for seed storage treatment. For 1 kg of pulses seeds 20 ml neem oil is used, applied manually to cover seed completely. It prevents infestation of weevils, red flour beetles, long headed flour beetle and fig moth etc. The peculiar properties of neem oil like repellence, strong odour keep the insects away and it almost kills the insect even at its egg stage, so that infestation stops early. Neem oil mixed with coconut oil/castor oil (1/1) show more effective results. Soybean oil, groundnut oil and corn oil can be used as protectant. Citronella leaves extract shows more effective results in the eradication of pest infestation. 

List of essential oils effective against storage fungi


Vernacular Name

Activity level




All are quite active

Kher and Chaurasia 1978

Apium graveolens (leaf)


Curcuma aromatica

Wild turmeric



Citrus medica

Bada nimbu

Inhibit all fungal infestations

Dubet et al.1983

Caesulia axillaris



Pandey et al.1982

Ocimum canum

Kali tulsi


Dubet et al.1984, 1989


Continuous availability of food grains throughout the year is only possible through safe storage practices at house hold level. The safe storage practices discussed above have advantages over chemical treatments due to their low cost, easy availability, safe to use and eco-friendly nature.


  1. Chahal, S. S., 2011, Scientific grain storage system for curbing food wastage. The National. Agric. Magazine, 14 (1): 23-24.
  2. Karthikeyan C, Veeraragavathatham, D, Karpagam, D & Firdouse, S Ayisha. 2009. Traditional storage practices. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Vol.08 (4): 564-568.
  3. Manju G, Simple J, and Deepika M. 2007. User-friendly Storage Practices Followed by Rural Women of Rajasthan. Asian Agri-History. Vol. 4.
  4. Narong C. 2003. Protection of Stored Products with Special Reference to Thailand. Assumption University Journal of Technology. Vol 7(1): 31-47.


Kavita R, Sushma KP, Mamrutha HM, Singh SK, Mishra CN, Vinod T, Venkatesh K*

Directorate of Wheat Research, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India

*This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.