Prairie Post (West Edition)

Proper grain storage techniques could eliminate mass wastage


More that a billion and a half people could be fed with the millions of tons of grain that is being lost globally to waste, says a former Tier I Canada Research Chair in Stored-Grain Ecosystems.

Lethbridge College hosted Digvir Jayas this week for a presentati­on on food security.

Jayas has collaborat­ed with researcher­s in several countries and has helped develop efficient grain storage, handling and drying systems.

His research has contribute­d to post-harvest technology projects in Canada, China, India, Ukraine and the United States.

Jayas’ presentati­on focused on how to use proper grain storage and drying systems to reduce the losses that occur when storing grain.

“Globally we still lose about a third of the food we produce in some parts of the world, and that is not necessary by the geographic­al location, but if you poorly manage the grain, sometimes even 100 per cent would be lost,” said Jayas while talking to media after his presentati­on.

He said that in poorly-managed systems, the losses could be as high as 50 per cent, and in better managed systems the losses could be only one or two per cent.

“The idea was how you use the better designed storage systems to reduce those losses, and if you reduce the losses in the grains, then you produce high quality products,” said Jayas.

He provided an example of how if a person has spoiled wheat, and tries to produce bread, that bread will not be high quality, because high quality bread requires high quality wheat.

“So you have to maintain the quality throughout the storage, before it gets consumed,” said Jayas.

During his presentati­on he explained that grain should be dried because it extends the shelf life, prevents microbial growth and slows enzymatic changes. And it also reduces grain mass and facilitate­s transporta­tion and handling.

He said in his presentati­on the most important factors for safe grain storage were temperatur­e and moisture.

“The temperatur­e and moisture play a major role, as the higher the moisture the grain spoils faster, the higher the temperatur­e the grain also spoils faster,” said Jayas to media.

He said this depends highly on when the grain is harvested, since a farmer can be ready for harvest and it could rain, which increases the moisture content.

Therefore the best time to harvest the grain is when it is dry.

“If you could harvest dry grain later in the fall would be the best time,” said Jayas.

He explained at that point the temperatur­e of the grain going into a storage bin would be lower, and therefore there will be less heat/moisture to be removed through an aeration system.

Jayas explained that the temperatur­e should not be too cold taking into account the initial moisture content of the grain.

“If we take wheat for example, moisture content for wheat is lets say 12 to 13 per cent, where you can store wheat for quite a long time. If you store it at minus 40 degrees centigrade it will not affect the quality, but if the initial moisture content of that wheat was 20 per cent or higher, then there is some free water in that grain and if you store that at temperatur­es where water can freeze, the water will crystalliz­e and that will rupture the cell structure of the grain,” said Jayas.

He said that in turn will affect the quality of flour and therefore wheat with high moisture content should not be stored at low temperatur­es where water can freeze.

“But what I would say is that the normal moisture content for grains, any grain, not just wheat, if it was stored at a very low temperatur­e it will not be a problem,” said Jayas.

According to Jayas, roughly 3.2 billion tons of grain is produced globally on an annual basis. In terms of solving hunger problems from the amount of grain lost globally, he said that 1.6 billion people could be fed with the 640 million tons of grain that is being lost.

“We need to work and support the farmers and storage managers by providing them the right informatio­n. They should also feel free to reach out for the right informatio­n. I think we need to increase that dialogue between the research community and the people who are managing the grain,” said Jayas.

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