CWB to fund study of grains’ self-preservation

Bacteria found in wheat and barley seed may contain antifungal compounds that could be put to work protecting stored crops, grain products and foods from going mouldy.

Using a $33,000 Canadian Wheat Board fellowship announced Thursday, graduate student Brenna Black of the University of Alberta is studying those compounds’ potential as natural preservatives.

The compounds may also prove useful as alternatives to methods such as atmospheric packaging (flushing products with gases such as carbon dioxide) or irradiation for extending foods’ shelf life, the CWB said in a release.

The board announced fellowships for Black and three other grad students, plus a $25,000 ag economics scholarship.

Black’s research will also look into the potential for these compounds in protecting crops from fungal diseases such as fusarium head blight, the CWB said.

Grad student Victoria Gauthier of the University of Manitoba will also receive $33,000 towards her work on the “increasing prevalence” of more aggressive and toxic forms of deoxynivalenol (DON) mycotoxins in fusarium.

Gauthier’s work will examine how fusarium, which in recent years has led to major losses to wheat yield and quality in the eastern Prairies, has changed and what effects those changes might have on future outbreaks.

As well, her work will explore whether “additional grading factors” will be needed to ensure wheat’s safety in both food and feed safety of wheat. Her study is also expected to provide “critical information” about the effectiveness of different fusarium-resistant genes against new types of DON.

Janelle Wallace of the University of Manitoba will use her fellowship funds to analyze the value added for farmers in the “supply chain of wheat and designated barley from producer to consumer” through the CWB’s involvement. 

Wallace will study whether the CWB’s volume position can increase savings for farmers through “volume negotiation,” as well as how costs are lowered and “how current performance can be improved to increase individual farm profitability.”

Rail competition

The CWB’s $25,000 ag economics scholarship goes to Russell Lawrence of the University of Saskatchewan toward development of a “simulation model of the western Canadian grain handling and transportation system.”

The model will allow for assessment and comparison of “alternative competition and regulatory policies,” the CWB said.

“Continued reliance on two major railways for grain transportation in Western Canada underscores the need to objectively assess various competition policies to determine what might work best in the public interest.”

The fourth of the $33,000 CWB fellowships goes to Katarzyna Bolek of the University of Saskatchewan, who will use CWB funding to look at the impact of recent changes to the Grain Research Development Corporation in Australia, which has recently formed joint ventures and taken equity stakes in private seed companies.

Bolek’s work will examine how this developed, as well as the “potential advantages” for Australian grain producers.

“This research will address a fundamentally important issue for western Canadian grain producers: lack of funding and co-ordination for cereal research in Canada poses a long-term threat to the competitive advantages of Canadian grain and its ability to globally compete over time,” the CWB wrote Thursday.

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