Keeping Canadian grain competitive

A row of large wheat bins stand in a field of yellow grain on a sunny day.

Keeping Canadian grain competitive

Researchers at the University of Manitoba are developing new ways to monitor wheat bins to preserve what’s inside and give Canadian farmers a leg-up for export
July 21, 2015

The grain industry is one of Canada’s most important economic drivers with an annual average production of around $12 billion. But every year millions of dollars of grain is lost after it is harvested due to pest infestations and less than ideal storage conditions. New analytical and imaging equipment at the Canadian Wheat Board Centre for Grain Storage Research (CWBCGSR) at the University of Manitoba will help researchers find new ways to monitor grain storage bins and preserve what’s inside. For example, the new tools will help researchers identify alternative pest control strategies that use acoustic or biological control methods to deter insects; find ways to detect contaminants with parts-per-billion accuracy, an increasingly important requirement for export; create nano-sized sensors and biomarkers to monitor the quality of stored grain; and develop an objective system to grade grain, an upgrade of an outdated, century-old system that rates grain quality based on its appearance rather than its nutritional value. Project leader Jitendra Paliwal, professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering at the University of Manitoba, will also use the equipment to perfect a system that applies to grain storage bins the same type of electromagnetic imaging that biomedical researchers have used to detect breast tumours. This technology will allow grain farmers to remotely monitor their bins for early signs of “hot spots,” pockets of grain that have begun to spoil.