Cigi works with innovative grain sorting technology to offset downgrading factors

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Fusarium-infected grain kernels (at bottom) removed through optical sorting at the workshop in North Battleford in December.

Fusarium-infected grain kernels (at bottom) removed through optical sorting at the workshop in North Battleford in December.

Cigi’s recent work with an innovative grain sorting technology has shown that western Canadian wheat and durum left almost worthless by degrading factors such as fusarium may be upgraded in market value.

In preparation for a two-day workshop on sorting technologies in December, Cigi staff used the Swedish-manufactured Bomill to sort five-tonne samples of fusarium-infected winter wheat and durum sourced from farmers. About 50% of one severely infected durum sample was recovered as milling quality wheat which also significantly increased its potential market value. Percentages recovered from less infected samples were even higher.

Since 2012, Cigi has collaborated with the University of Saskatchewan to evaluate the Bomill in removing unwanted grain kernels and potentially upgrade wheat and durum. Early work involved sorting hard spring wheat from durum and on removing non-hard vitreous kernels to significantly upgrade the seed.

The system uses near-infrared transmittance (NIT) to rapidly analyze the chemical make-up of each seed which is then separated into fractions based on quality. The equipment can sort three tonnes per hour while a lab-scale version can test about two kilograms. Permanently set up at the U of S feed research processing facility in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, the Bomill has proven successful in upgrading the grain to a higher potential value.

Rex Newkirk, Cigi Vice President of Research and Innovation, says that Cigi and the U of S together have been looking at practical applications for farmers and industry. The university has focused on feed while Cigi has concentrated on grain quality for food. “We’re both determining how to get the most value out of the crop. Recent work with the Bomill has shown that, for example, milling quality wheat can be recovered from grain severely infected with fusarium.”

During the last couple of years western Canadian wheat crops have had little downgrading due to factors such as fusarium, midge, mildew, or sprouting, he says. “The primary degrading factor this year has been mildew which has had little impact on milling and baking, mainly because it was superficial. However, a large portion — almost all of the winter wheat as well as durum — was severely downgraded due to fusarium so farmers were asking what could be done with this material.”

In December, Cigi hosted the two-day workshop on the Bomill as well as an optical grain sorter at the facility in North Battleford The session was attended by farmers and representatives from seed cleaning companies, grain companies, and flour mills. The participants learned about methods for removing downgrading factors from wheat and durum and they had an opportunity to bring samples for sorting on the equipment. In addition, Bomill representatives were on hand to gather feedback on sorting requirements specific to the Canadian crop.

Rex explains that the system can determine protein content, of which fusarium-affected kernels have a lower amount, as well as the presence of vomitoxin (known as deoxynivalenol, or DON) resulting from the fusarium. The NIT rapidly detects the chemical composition through wavelengths of light entering and exiting each kernel, allowing for separation of degraded material.

The Bomill sorting conducted at the workshop proved to be successful, especially for durum, Rex says. Bomill company representatives will be optimizing the equipment to further accommodate the kernel size of other Canadian wheat classes such as CWRW or CWRS.

An optical sorter, which uses visual analysis of the shape and colour of seeds to identify downgraded kernels, was also evaluated as another option, he says. “Optical sorting is very effective too but can go only so far because it looks at external physical characteristics whereas the Bomill is looking at the chemical makeup to get even more specific results.”

Rex notes, however, that some farmers or companies may prefer to use an optical sorter as it is less expensive and can handle higher volumes more quickly.

“I think both the Bomill and optical sorter are real options to help find some value in this year’s heavily fusarium-infected crop.”

For more information about Cigi’s work with the Bomill, see the CigiTV video at https://cigi.ca/cigi-tv-bomill/

Also, for more information on the workshop, see the following presentations:

Cigi-Results of Sorting Downgraded Durum and Wheat
Hansi Biedermann-BoMill presentation Canada
Natacha Hogan-Fusarium Mycotoxin Workshop
Terry Remple-Overview of Optical Sorting Technology
Tom Scott-Feed and Processing Options for Heavily Downgraded Wheat
TriQ Overvw
TriQ-Details for Installation