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A ‘clean’ harvest key to smooth trade

Take precautions against pesticide residues and naturally occurring toxins in grain

As farmers harvest this year’s crop they’re also being reminded that the eyes — and analytic testing equipment — of the world are on them like never before.

Making sure they’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s during this critical time will help protect markets, avoid trade disputes and prevent lawsuits.

Cereals Canada president Cam Dahl wants farmers to “Keep it Clean” to protect grain markets.

Cereals Canada president Cam Dahl wants farmers to “Keep it Clean” to protect grain markets.
photo: Daniel Winters

“There is more and more scrutiny out there on (pesticide) residues as well as on the mycotoxin side,” Cereals Canada president Cam Dahl said in an interview Aug. 31. “The more that we can be that reliable supplier the better.”

Most importantly, follow label directions when applying pesticides to crops, especially pre-harvest, Dahl said.

Glyphosate, applied on some crops to kill weeds ahead of combining, is among several products end-users are watching closely for. Some companies such as Grain Millers Canada, a Yorkton, Sask.-based oat buyer, won’t buy oats sprayed with glyphosate pre-harvest.

“For the new crop year beginning August 1, 2016, Grain Millers will not be accepting any oats that have been sprayed with glyphosate pre-harvest, or any that have been sprayed with any other non-registered chemicals,” Scott Shiels, the company’s grain procurement merchant, wrote in an email. “This is stated in our contracts, and there are affidavits to sign before delivery of any new-crop oats confirming that your grain meets the contract criteria, and outlining the repercussions of non-compliance.”

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Meanwhile, General Mills is being sued for allegedly misleading the public by stating its Nature Valley brand granola bars are “made with 100 per cent natural whole grain oats,” even though traces of glyphosate have been found in them, according to the anti-pesticide organization Beyond Pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides, along with Moms Across America and the Organic Consumers Association with The Richman Law Group, filed jointly a suit in Washington, D.C. under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. The groups say since glyphosate is a synthetic herbicide, Nature Valley granola bars are not “natural.”

Glyphosate is registered for use pre-harvest on a number of crops in Canada, but farmers should check with buyers to see if they will buy crops where pre-harvest glyphosate has been applied, said Wade Sobkowich, executive of the Western Grains Elevator Association (WGEA), which represents Western Canada’s major grain companies.

“It is very important that people are informed about what they are using and what is accepted and what isn’t,” he said.

Where glyphosate is acceptable pre-harvest, it must be applied to physiologically mature crops, which in the case of wheat is when kernels in the least mature area of the field are 30 per cent moisture or less, Dahl said. The stem at the base of the head will have lost its green colour and a thumbnail imprint will remain in the kernel. At that stage the plant is no longer transferring starch and protein, or if it’s present, glyphosate, to the seed. After application wait seven to 14 days before harvesting.

Farmers delivering grain to WGEA-member companies must first sign an affidavit declaring they are complying with Plant Breeders’ Rights legislation and what they are delivering meets the class of grain it’s intended for. The affidavit also states farmers have not used quinclorac (Clever herbicide) on canola or chlormequat (Manipulator plant growth regulator) on cereals, he said.

China, Canada’s biggest export canola customer, has not approved quinclorac and therefore has no allowable maximum residue limit (MRL) for its presence on canola. And the United States has not approved chlormequat so it has no tolerance for residues in imported cereals.

In addition some WGEA-member companies have added other pesticide restrictions to what they buy.

“It is very important that producers check with the elevator with which they do business to identify ahead of time what grain they will be accepting, based on what it has been treated with, and what they won’t be accepting,” Sobkowich said.

Last year some WGEA member-companies did take crops treated with quinclorac and chlormequat, but segregated it in hopes of being able to sell it in certain markets and assist farmers.

“This year the WGEA members have individually decided that everybody should know about the quinclorac issue and everybody should know about the chlormequat issue,” Sobkowich said. “They will not accept canola treated with quinclorac and cereals treated with chlormequat.”

Canada’s grain customers aren’t just worried about pesticide residues. Naturally occurring toxins are also trade disrupters, Dahl said. One is deoxynivalenol (DON), also known as vomitoxin, which can be produced by fusarium head blight in cereal crops. Canadian farmers and the grain industry do a good job of managing the infection, which occurs in the field, Dahl said.

Another is ochratoxin A, which develops after harvest while grain is in storage. In Canada it’s produced by a fungus called Penicillium verrucosum.

“Unlike fusarium head blight… ochratoxin A and the fungus that produces it cause no visible damage to grain and can’t be detected through visual inspection and grading,” the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) website says.

Ochratoxin A is considered a carcinogen. It’s measured in parts per billion, “which is a very small number,” amounting to just a seed or two in a cargo, Dahl said.

“It’s something we monitor in Canada and I am confident in the Canadian record, but it’s something customers pay close attention to,” he added.

Farmers can prevent ochratoxin A by keeping stored grain temperature and moisture content low and aerating grain bins regularly, the CGC says.

Farmers should also grow, when possible, disease-resistant varieties and use agronomic practices to reduce the potential for disease developing in crops.

Get more information on “Keeping it Clean“ at keepingitclean.ca.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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