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Grain spoilage research in Sask. to help farmers get the most out of their crops

A Canadian researcher on a mission to reduce grain spoilage recently visited the University of Saskatchewan to look inside grains using the Canadian Light Source (CLS).

Spoilage rates vary among grains and storage conditions, from as low as one per cent of stored grain lost up to 50 per cent.

“If you took an average of 20 per cent loss, that would mean 640 million tonnes of grain is being lost globally on an annual basis,” researcher Digvir Jayas said.

Jayas and his team stored three varieties of hard durum and spring wheat for five weeks at 17 per cent moisture content and monitored for spoilage. The wheat spoils less easily than soft wheats.

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The team took the grain samples to the Canadian Light Source synchrotron at the University of Saskatchewan to take a deeper look at the nutritional and structural changes in the grain.

“The CLS provides the capabilities to look at the internal structure of the materials,” Jayas said. “In this case, we conducted a study to see if there are certain varieties or certain wheat classes that store better than others.”

All varieties of durum wheat were spoiled at the end of week five.

Jayas said the main causes of grain spoilage are moisture content and high temperatures.

“High moisture content and high temperature would spoil the grain faster for example and also it can be infected by insects, mites — more grows on the grain.”

Jayas said the team plans to use the technology to study spoilage in other grain types so plant breeders can develop better varieties resistant to spoilage.

“We would advise farmers, based on this information, that the varieties that spoil easier should be stored at a low temperature and low moisture content, for example. But I would also hope that the information be used by plant breeders as well so they can incorporate it when they are developing new varieties.”

Jayas’s full report can be found on Science Direct.

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