A JOINT research project is underway between the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Chinese Research Center for Rural Economy (RCRE) that aims to explore the full extent of postharvest loss in China.
Each year, China produces 20% of the world's food, yet more than 50 million tons of food are lost or wasted along agricultural supply chains.
"With global demand for food rising rapidly, finding ways to preserve what is already grown, especially in China, is critical for achieving food security," said ADM Institute director Dr. Prasanta Kalita.
The project examines wheat postharvest loss issues by comparing measured losses with estimated losses — an approach that, experts believe, has not been used before.
The project was initiated in October 2013 after the two institutions signed a memorandum of understanding in August 2013. It has two survey components: a questionnaire and the collection of field measurements of loss.
The surveys will be conducted in China's Henan province over the next several months. Researchers will also document components of the wheat supply chain and postharvest loss issues in Henan and compile results in a number of case studies.
The survey involves asking approximately 600 farmers how much postharvest loss they experience. Researchers will measure physical losses of the same survey region, giving them a picture of the differences between farmer perceptions of loss and actual loss.
"I'm very excited about this because if we had both actual measurements and estimates of the same situations, this might be the first time that a correlation has been investigated between these two approaches to gain data," explained Steve Sonka, University of Illinois agricultural economist and researcher at the ADM Institute.
Postharvest loss prevention efforts lack reliable and comprehensive data, which inhibits the development of effective solutions.
RCRE is a publicly funded think tank in China that has an extensive survey network of 23,000 households in 31 provinces and 1,200 leading agricultural processing companies in all provinces. RCRE will lead the project and conduct the survey, measurement and case studies.
ADM Institute faculty affiliates will contribute by defining the framework, designing the survey instrument and assessing the findings of the project.
With a focus on loss prevention of staple crops in developing nations, the ADM Institute was established at the university in 2011 with a $10 million gift from Archers Daniels Midland Co.
Tour of India
The ADM Institute is also collaborating with the International Rice Research Institute on postharvest activities as part of the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia Project.
Focusing on locations in Bihar and Odisha in eastern India, the institute is providing funding to target drying and storage, mechanical threshing, training and demonstrations and establishing pilot sites to test innovations and collect data.
This particular approach will emphasize the importance of sustainable business models and farmer training through technical and business learning activities. Farm-level postharvest loss assessment data on both physical and quality losses will also be measured and estimated against improved technology options, where feasible.
In January, 15 students from the University of Illinois' College of Business Supply Chain Management program traveled to India to observe and understand the extent of postharvest losses in agricultural supply chains. Over the course of their 10-day trip through southern and northern parts of the country, the students visited farms, grain mills, storage facilities, wholesale markets, non-governmental organization offices and a university campus specializing in environmental research.
This year's trip marks the third time the ADM Institute, in collaboration with the John Deere Foundation, has supported this study tour in India. This trip was the first to involve on-site communications, which provided the students with the unique opportunity to raise awareness for an important global issue while making a meaningful contribution to the process of solving it.
The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization has estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food are lost or wasted around the world each year. Postharvest loss prevention is recognized by leading development experts as an important means to achieve global food security.