Postharvest practices of maize farmers in Kaiti District, Kenya and the impact of hermetic storage on populations of Aspergillus spp. and aflatoxin contamination.
Maina, Angeline W
Wagacha, John M
Mwaura, Francis B
Muthomi, James W
Woloshuk, Charles P
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Aflatoxin contamination in maize by Aspergillus spp. is a major problem causing food, income and health concerns. A study was carried out in Kaiti District in Lower Eastern Kenya to evaluate the effect of three months storage of maize in triple-layer hermetic (PICS™) bags on the population of Aspergillus spp. and levels of aflatoxin. Postharvest practices by maize farmers including time of harvesting, drying and storage methods were obtained with a questionnaire. Aspergillus spp. in soil and maize were isolated by serial dilution-plating and aflatoxin content was measured using Vicam method. Maize was mostly stored in woven polypropylene (PP) and sisal bags within granaries and living houses. Aspergillus flavus L-strain was the most predominant isolate from soil (Mean = 8.4 x102 CFU/g), on the harvested grain (4.1 x 102 CFU/g) and grain sampled after three months of storage (1.1 x 103 CFU/g). The type of storage bag significantly (P ≤ 0.05) influenced the population of members of Aspergillus section Flavi, with A. flavus (S and L strains) and A. parasiticus being 71% higher in PP bags than in PICS bags. Total aflatoxin in maize sampled at harvest and after three months storage ranged from <5 to 42.7 ppb with 55% lower aflatoxin content in PICS bags than in PP bags. After storage, the population of Aspergillus section Flavi was positively correlated with aflatoxin levels. The results of this study demonstrate that PICS bags are an effective management option for reducing population of toxigenic Aspergillus spp. and aflatoxin in stored maize.
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