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PURDUE IMPROVED COWPEA STORAGE SYSTEM

Farmers in West and Central Africa rely on cowpeas — known in the United States as blackeyed peas — for income and to feed their families. But they have been fighting a losing battle with weevil infestations that destroy the grain when it is stored after harvest. It has forced the farmers to sell at harvest when prices are lowest and buy cowpeas for their families when prices are high.

A cost-effective storage system developed by Larry Murdock, professor of entomology, now eliminates weevil damage, allows farmers to store their crops and reduces economic hardship.

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HOW IT WORKS

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With the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) system, the cowpeas are triple-bagged — in a sealed polyethylene bag that is wrapped in another polyethylene bag, with a nylon or polypropylene bag on the outside.

Weevils get much of their moisture by metabolically turning oxygen into water. When the bags are sealed, the weevils lose their oxygen supply. Instead of suffocating, they stop feeding, growing and reproducing and eventually dry up.

Larry Murdock, professor of entomology, and his team developed the Purdue Improved Cowpeas Storage (PICS) system.

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USING AVAILABLE MATERIALS

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The PICS bags are manufactured from readily available materials in West and Central African countries. They are light, affordable and easy to use, making them ideal for rural farmers. Six companies in five countries produce the bags, and more than 1,000 retailers sell them.

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CHECK OUT THE STORY OF
HANNAH NSIAH OF GHANA
AND PICS BAGS ON THIS VIDEO

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NEXT STEPS

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The next phase of the program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on refining and perfecting distribution systems in rural areas. Murdock and colleagues are investigating whether the PICS system would work for other grains, such as corn and sorghum, and how the technology would work in Afghanistan and Asian countries. Speaking about higher education during the Morrill Land Grant sesquicentennial celebration, Bill Gates used a PICS bag as a prop to illustrate the good that can come when the Gates Foundation partners with public universities and colleges.

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