Performance of a hermetic device and neem (Azadirachta indica) in storing wheat seed: Evidence from participatory household trials in central Bangladesh
Smallholder farmers in Bangladesh often use low-density polyethylene (LDPE) bags contained within woven polypropylene bags to store wheat seed during the summer monsoon that precedes winter season planting. High humidity and temperature during this period can encourage increased seed moisture and pests, thereby lowering seed quality. Following a farm household survey conducted to inform trial design, eighty farmers were engaged in an action research process in which they participated in designing and conducting trials comparing traditional and alternative seed storage methods over 30 weeks. Factorial treatments included comparison of hermetic SuperGrainbags® (Premium RZ) against LDPE bags, both with and without the addition of dried neem tree leaves (Azadirachta indica). SuperGrainbags® were more effective in maintaining seed moisture at acceptable levels close to pre-storage conditions than LDPE bags. Both seed germination and seedling coleoptile length were significantly greater in hermetic than LDPE bags. Neem had no effect on seed moisture, germination, or coleoptile length. SuperGrainbags® were also more effective in abating seed damage during storage, although inclusion of neem within LDPE bags also had significant damage. Quantification of seed predating insects and diseases suggested that SuperGrainbags® also suppressed Coleopteran pests and blackspot, the latter indicative of Fusarium graminearum. Conversely, where farmers used LDPE bags, neem also had an additional though limited pest suppressive effect. Post-storage treatment scoring by farmers revealed a strong preference for SuperGrainbags® and no preference differences for or against neem. This study demonstrates a process by which farmers can be involved in the participatory co-design and testing of alternative wheat storage options, and stresses the need to develop SuperGrainbag® supply chains so hermetic storage can be made widely available.