Growers, check your bins — grain terminals across Alberta have reported a spike in heated canola, and your cereals may be in danger as well.
“I did a sample of canola two or three weeks ago and it already had four per cent of heated in it, and canola can deteriorate very quickly,” Larry Michta from SGS Agricultural Services said in late November. “Make sure you watch your bins. If it goes out of condition, that’s your profit.”
The Alberta Canola Producers Commission issued a release on Nov. 30 alerting producers to the recent spike in the incidence of heated canola in Alberta.
“Growers are encouraged to check all canola bins as soon as possible,” the statement said. “Cooling the bin and stopping this early heating now can save a lot of money in lost grade and lost delivery options.”
For canola, ‘browned burned’ seeds means an immediate downgrade. No. 1 canola can have only 0.1 per cent heated seed, while No. 2 canola can have 0.5 per cent and No. 3 can have two per cent. In wheat, the tolerance levels vary depending on the type of wheat, but generally, No. 1 wheat can only have 0.05 per cent heated seed. Malt barley can have 0.1 per cent heated seed, and food grade barley can have 0.2 per cent heated seed.
Heated grain usually starts to look “a little rusty,” and may go from deep rust to brown to black.
“If you look at the germ, you can tell whether or not it’s been heated,” he said. “But that’s something you can control by looking after your crop.”
And this year’s harvest created ideal conditions for heated seed, said Michta, who spoke at a joint regional meeting for Alberta Barley and Alberta Wheat. Rain and snow in the early parts of fall, combined with a long stressful harvest, led to some canola being binned at higher moisture levels than recommended and then not given the attention it needed as producers struggled to get other crops off.
But ultimately, heated grain “is a storage problem,” and that comes down to the producer, said Michta.
“That’s not an environmental or a growing problem. That’s your storage problem,” he said.
“When you store your grain, you’ve got to keep in mind that it’s a living commodity. You’ll harvest it and it will be bone dry, and then you put it in the bin when it’s 30 degrees inside and eight per cent moisture. That grain is going to go through a sweat, and when it goes through a sweat, it gives off moisture.”
When the weather outside the bin gets cool, the grain next to the wall of the bin begins to cool as well, while the grain at the centre of the bin remains warm. The cool air inside the bin gathers moisture and drops to the bottom, gravitating toward the warm centre of the bin.
“Then it will take the warm, moist air up to the top, and that’s where you’re going to get your spoilage,” said Michta.
Temperature cables may not be able to detect the start points for grain heating until some of the seed is already damaged, so there’s a couple things producers should be doing right now, said Michta.
“You can turn on your aeration and cool it down and get rid of that moisture. Or you can core your bin,” he said. “Just put a rag or a paper towel on top, auger it at the bottom, and when that paper towel comes out, you’ve cored your bin,” he said. “Let it sit out on your truck overnight and then put it back in. That should cool it down and break it up.
“That’s not to say it won’t heat anymore, but the chances are lessened.”
The Alberta Canola release also recommended that producers transfer their grain from one bin to another to detect heating. Probing from the top of the bin or through the doors may not detect hot spots in the middle of the bin. Producers should move at least one-third of their bin, unless storage risk is high. In that case, the whole bin should be transferred. During the transfer, producers should “feel for heat and sniff for a burnt smell as the canola comes out of the bin.”
As winter progresses, producers should check their bins at least once a week and make sure their grain stays in good condition, said Michta.
“When it goes into your bin, make sure you condition it so you don’t get the spoiling,” he said. “You can’t change the mildew or the sprouted or the fusarium levels. You can’t change those things, but you can make sure that it doesn’t deteriorate once you have it in the bin.”