Wheat School: Single Kernel Sorting and Salvaging High Fusarium Wheat

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are studying whether single kernel sorting technology is effective for salvaging fusarium-infected wheat, and ultimately, reducing the amount of waste in food production.

Since acquiring a Swedish-made near-infrared seed sorter known as the BoMill TriQ in 2012, U of S researchers working together with the Canadian International Grains Institute have conducted several studies to evaluate how well the technology works to remove fusarium-damaged kernels and coinciding mycotoxin levels.

“Incidence of fusarium has been high over the last few years, which has brought about the need to figure out how we can effectively remove these kernels from grain,” explains U of S feed industry liaison Sean Thompson in this Wheat School episode filmed at the 2015 Western Nutrition Conference in Winnipeg.

 

The BoMill, with its near-infrared spectrometry, is different from colour seed sorters in that it scans the chemical composition, not just the appearance, of each seed.

One of the studies looking at grading differences between wheat sorted by a BoMill and the original fusarium-infected sample found an up-to-$241 per tonne benefit from removing 5 to 20 percent of the grain.

“That’s pretty huge coming from grain that should essentially be buried in the field with zero value,” notes Thompson.

Other studies at the U of S have looked at whether broiler chickens respond differently to sorted grain with reduced mycotoxin levels (which you can read here.)

The technology could also be used to sort seed based on other characteristics, such as crude protein content, as Thompson says kernel protein levels in a single head of wheat can vary as much as 60 percent.

“Being able to separate the kernels based on protein in a single source of wheat gives us a lot of opportunity to look at processing differences, for example,” he explains.

The price tag for near-infrared transmittance sorting is still high, and at around 3 tonnes per hour per BoMill TriQ, it’s not a high throughput process, but Thompson says the technology will become more common.

Standard Nutrition Canada Co., has purchased two BiMill TriQ sorters for its feed mill in Winnipeg, which is believed to be the first commercial facility in North America to use the technology.

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