Strategies for Salvaging Ergot-Infected Cereal Grains

CANADA - The director of weather and market analysis with the Canadian Wheat Board says cereal growers in western Canada will be employing a number of strategies this year to salvage crops infected by ergot, Bruce Cochrane writes.
calendar icon 4 October 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Ergot, a fungal disease that infects cereal crops and produces a toxin that reduces end use desirability of the grain for both human and animal consumption, has been the biggest downgrading factor this year across the prairies.

Canadian Wheat Board weather and market analysis director Bruce Burnett says previous cool wet years have left a lot of ergot spores available to infect cereal crops and we saw wet conditions this spring around flowering time which helped with activation of the spores and infection of the plants.

Bruce Burnett-Canadian Wheat Board

Ergot this year is very widespread.

Again it is quite variable so sample by sample the ergot counts can change quite considerably but we are seeing it as being the primary downgrading factor this year.

I think this year we'll see a lot of farmers cleaning out some of the ergot especially on the severe samples.

Ergot's usually handled a number of ways.

Certainly some of the cleaning equipment can be used, especially gravity tables have been used in the past.

Some areas of the prairies, especially where pulses are grown, some seed cleaners do have access to color sorters or some elevators have color sorters and that's the most effective method for cleaning up ergot samples.

In a lot of cases where the downgrading is not that severe in terms of grades it can also be blended with less severe samples although that's again something that will have to be closely monitored.

Mr Burnett says, because Canada has had good harvest conditions this year the inherent quality of the cereals is quite high so, because it's so toxic, ergot does downgrade the grain fairly quickly.

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