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PICS crop bags program earns Purdue TEAM Award

May 3, 2016
image of PICS bags

Purdue University faculty and staff who developed the crop-saving bags that have improved food security for millions in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as the livelihoods of impoverished farm families are the 2016 recipients of the College of Agriculture's TEAM award.

TEAM, an acronym for Together Everyone Achieves More, is given annually to a Purdue team of professionals for their interdisciplinary achievements. This year's honorees are members of the research and development team of the Purdue Improved Crop Storage program known as PICS.

A ceremony to recognize the team will be held 2-4 p.m. May 9 in Pfendler Hall's Deans Auditorium on the Purdue's West Lafayette campus. The event is open to the public.

The hermetic triple bagging - a chemical-free storage method - enables farmers to store a variety of major crops for more than one year after harvest. The technology helps improve food availability and increase income of smallholder farmers.

Before PICS, impoverished farmers needed to sell their crops soon after harvest when prices are lowest or use insecticides, most of which became ineffective or might not have been safe because of improper use. When using PICS bags, farmers no longer need chemicals to control grain storage pests such as weevils, and they can store their crops for later in the year when prices are better for them.

"The work of the PICS team is making a difference in the lives of millions of people in Africa by helping to increase farmer income as well as improve food security," said Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue Agriculture. "The passion and commitment they demonstrate for putting the PICS technology into the hands of those who can benefit is both exemplary and inspirational. They are eminently deserving of the TEAM Award."

PICS technology was developed in the late 1980s by Purdue faculty, students and staff and partners in northern Cameroon with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Efforts under the initial PICS program, which began in 2007, focused on using the technology to store cowpea - known in the U.S. as black-eyed pea - in West and Central Africa.

Later, a second phase - PICS2 - involved research into how the bags could be used to store other crops. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also funded the initial PICS and PICS2 projects.

PICS3, funded by the Gates Foundation, extends the program to commercialization involving multiple crops and to countries in Eastern Africa.

Team members, by department, are:

* Agricultural Economics: Joan R. Fulton, Jess M. Lowenberg-DeBoer, Jacob E. Ricker-Gilbert and the late Corinne E.N. Alexander.

* Botany and Plant Pathology: Charles P. Woloshuk.

* Entomology: Dieudonné BaributsaLarry L. Murdock and Scott B. Williams.

* Food Science: Lisa J. Mauer.

* International Programs in Agriculture: Carole L. Braund, Heather P. Fabriès and Katy Ibrahim.

* Purdue Extension: William E. Horan, Amanda M. Mosiman, George M. Okantey and Maria H. Restrepo-Turner.

* Youth Development and Agricultural Education/Agricultural and Biological Engineering: Natalie J. Carroll.

The team will receive a commemorative plaque to be displayed in the Agricultural Administration Building and a $10,000 cash prize to continue its work.

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