28 July, 2021
iLab new article was published in Scientific Reports.
Title: Nature-inspired wax-coated jute bags for reducing post-harvest storage losses
by Kennedy Odokonyero, Adair Gallo Jr and & Himanshu Mishra
Post-harvest storage of grains is crucial for food and feed reserves and facilitating seeds for planting. Ironically, post-harvest losses continue to be a major food security threat in the developing world, especially where jute bags are utilized. While jute fabrics flaunt mechanical strength and eco-friendliness, their water-loving nature has proven to be their Achilles heel. Increased relative humidity and/or precipitation wets jute, thereby elevating the moisture content of stored seeds and causing fungal growth. This reduces seed longevity, viability, and nutritional value. To address this crucial weakness of jute bags, we followed a nature-inspired approach to modify their surface microtexture and chemical make-up via alkali and wax treatments, respectively. The resulting wax-coated jute bags (WCJBs) exhibited significant water-repellency to simulated rainfall and airborne moisture compared to control jute bags (CJBs). A 2 months-long seed storage experiment with wheat (Triticum aestivum) grains exposed to 55%, 75%, and 98% relative humidity environments revealed that the grains stored in the WCJBs exhibited 7.5–4% lesser (absolute) moisture content than those in the CJBs. Furthermore, WCJBs-stored grains exhibited a 35–12% enhancement in their germination efficacy over the controls. This nature-inspired engineering solution could contribute towards reducing post-harvest losses in the developing world, where jute bags are extensively utilized for grain storage.