Technology section

Variety identification

Variety Identification Research and Monitoring

OpenArray plates are placed in an instrument for variety identification analysis.

DNA extracted from individual wheat kernels is transferred onto OpenArray plates for variety identification analysis. Up to four plates containing the DNA samples of 384 wheat kernels may be analyzed at one time.

We monitor export wheat shipments for wheats of other classes and ineligible varieties as these could undermine quality and create problems for customers.

We also provide varietal purity certification of malting barley cargoes.

Our variety identification and composition analyses support other research, including the annual Harvest Sample Program and support the Canadian Grain Commission’s grain inspection services.

We use advanced technologies to look at differences in DNA sequences that are characteristic among varieties. Our reference databases currently contain DNA profiles of over 800 wheat and barley varieties.

Our relevance to the grain sector

Monitoring the variety composition of export cargoes is a key element of grain quality assurance. When kernel visual distinguishability was eliminated as a requirement for variety registration in 2008, the industry implemented a declaration system for western Canadian wheat and the Canadian Grain Commission increased variety monitoring to protect the reputation of Canada’s wheat for consistent quality.

We continuously develop new methods and explore new technologies for grain variety identification. We use the methods we develop for our own work and we also make them available to other seed and grain testing laboratories.

Program manager

Dr. Daniel Perry

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Trace organics and elements

Trace Organics and Trace Elements

UltraWAVE microwave digestion system

Grain samples digested using an UltraWAVE microwave digestion system for trace element analysis.

Our research and monitoring relates to pesticides, mycotoxins, fungal biomarkers, and elemental analysis, including heavy metals, in grain. We develop, evaluate and validate analytical methods. We also monitor samples from the Harvest Sample Program and from grain export shipments. Our research focuses on how factors such as sampling, processing, agronomic practices, or environmental conditions affect the presence of pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals and other elements, and fungal biomarkers, such as ergosterol, in grain.

Our relevance to the grain sector

Our work directly supports a number of Canadian Grain Commission activities and helps the Canadian grain industry on topics related to grain safety.

Through cargo monitoring, we generate data for Statements of Assurance. These statements give exporters and importers science-based assurance that Canadian grain meets safety requirements.

Through the Harvest Sample Program, our research provides a scientific basis for a number of grading factors, including Fusarium-damaged kernels and ergot. Our program also monitors how tolerance levels for grading factors manage the presence of mycotoxins in Canadian grain.

Through our monitoring and research, we can assess trends in the occurrence of pesticides, mycotoxins, trace elements, and heavy metals in grain over time or across geographic regions. By analyzing grain that is suspected to be contaminated the Canadian Grain Commission and private grain companies can identify contaminated grain and prevent it from entering the grain handling system.

Program manager

Dr. Sheryl Tittlemier

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Microbiology

Microbiology

Microorganisms infecting wheat kernels after incubation

The growth of microorganisms infecting selected wheat kernels on an agar plate.

We research and monitor pathogenic, quarantine and toxigenic micoorganisms, such as moulds and bacteria, associated with Canadian grain and products made from Canadian grain. Our program develops new tools and employs new technologies for the detection, identification and characterization of these microorganisms.

We use newly developed and validated methods to investigate how agronomics, environment and processing affect microbial communities naturally associated with crops and grain products.

Our relevance to the grain sector

The Official Grain Grading Guide identifies a number of factors which can directly or indirectly affect the quality and safety of Canadian grain. Our program supports the maintenance and updating of grading factors and tolerances linked to microorganisms, for example, ergot, Fusarium damage, mildew, smudge and Sclerotinia.

We also conduct an annual Fusarium survey on samples submitted by producers as part of the Harvest Sample Program. This survey monitors the occurrence and frequency of Fusarium species and populations associated with Fusarium Head Blight in eastern and western Canada. The survey’s statistics give producers, grain handlers and others valuable information for managing the risk of Fusarium Head Blight on the farm and throughout the grain supply chain.

Our program monitors and carries out surveillance of high-risk pathogenic, quarantine and toxigenic microorganisms in exported grain. Our work provides baseline and surveillance data to support official documents for grain exports and also ensures market access and grain safety.

Program manager

Dr. Tom Gräfenhan

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Biotechnology

Grain Biotechnology Research

Placing DNA samples on real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) instrument.

Testing for genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) is done using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Our program develops and evaluates DNA-based methods for identifying and quantifying genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in grains and oilseeds. We also verify protein-based methods to determine if they are suitable for detecting GMOs.

We are ISO 17025-accredited to carry out GMO testing using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR is used to amplify, that is to reproduce, the DNA sequence of the gene of interest so that GMO analysis can be performed with high sensitivity.

Our relevance to the grain sector

Many countries require that grain and food products containing genetically modified materials are labelled. As well, many importing countries have tolerances for the amount of genetically modified materials that can be present in non-genetically modified shipments. Several importers of Canadian grain routinely test for the presence of unapproved GMOs, including the European Union.

In 2009, we successfully implemented a testing method for CDC Triffid, a genetically modified variety of flaxseed. Our method followed sampling and testing protocols developed by the Government of Canada, the European Union and Japan.

Program manager

Dr. Tigst Demeke

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