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Oat quality, GM/non-GM coexistence and grain differentiation future

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

Oat quality, GM/non-GM coexistence and grain differentiation future

Related tags: Oat, Cereal

New research on the importance of differentiating quality along the global oat supply chain, finding flexibility in future GM/non-GM crop coexistence regulations, and the potential (and challenges) of single kernel near infrared technology in distinguishing grain traits.

Tracking oat quality along the value chain

Use of cultivated oats by food processing industries represents a major market, given recently approved health claims for oats in addition to the now well-studied health benefits of eating whole grains. Oat growers, distributors, millers, and food processors all have unique criteria that determine quality from their respective positions along the value chain, and each must be considered to secure a reliable and consistent source that meets high nutritional and sensory quality demands, according to a study recently published in Oats Nutrition and Technology​.

Variations in the quantities and properties of the major nutrient components in oats impact oat quality in terms of nutrition and functionality. For producers, quality is anything that affects grain yield or value at the elevator (e.g., grain weight, size, frost damage). Markets are divided into food oat milling and animal feed—each with its own grading and market opportunities. Millers sell oat products to food manufacturers or directly to retailers, so they not only have food labeling and food safety concerns to contend with, but also specialized quality requirements, such as target beta-glucan (soluble fiber with cholesterol-lowering effects) content, degree of toasted flavor or granulation. Finally end products made from oats are eaten by consumers, whose sensory preferences and nutritional demands dictate oat characteristics.  

Through the combined efforts of each participant in the supply chain, sustainable market opportunities for oats can be expanded to include products offering nutritional benefits and specific end-use attributes that appeal to consumer populations.

Source: Oats Nutrition and Technology
Published online Nov. 15, 2013 doi: 10.1002/9781118354100.ch3
“Food Oat Quality Throughout the Value Chain”
Authors: N. Ames, C. Rhymer and J. Storsley

Finding flexibility in GM, non-GM coexistence regulations

In the European Union and other countries that have implemented mandatory GMO labeling, systems should be put in place that support the coexistence of genetically modified (GM) and non-GMO crops at the farm level and throughout the subsequent supply chain. Coexistence regulations ensure that GM and non-GM crops can be cultivated side by side without excluding any agricultural option, so farmers can make a practical choice between conventional, organic and GM crops.

Although proportionate coexistence is best achieved if regulated in a flexible manner, most implemented coexistence regulations merely rely on rigid measures. However, flexible future coexistence regulations would reduce the regulatory burden on certain agricultural options and avoid jeopardizing economic incentives for coexistence. Flexibility can be integrated at:

  1. the regulatory level by relaxing the rigidity of coexistence measures in ex ante​ (future) regulations, yet without offsetting incentives to implement coexistence measures;
  2. the farm level by recommending the use of pollen barriers instead of large and fixed isolation distances (as pollen barriers are easily negotiable among neighboring farmers and would reduce regulatory burden); and
  3. the national/regional level by allowing diversified coexistence measures, which are adapted to the heterogeneity of farming in the EU.

Given the challenges of implementation, the adoption of flexible and proportionate coexistence regulations will inevitably prove difficult, the authors concluded.

Source: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Published online Sept. 18, 2013 doi: 10.1002/jsfa.635
“How can flexibility be integrated into coexistence regulations? A review”
Authors: Y. Devos, K. Dillen, and M. Demon

The promise of single kernel near infrared technology

During the past two decades, single kernel (SK) near infrared (NIR) reflectance and transmittance technologies have been developed for a range of cereal grain physical quality and chemical traits as well as detecting and predicting levels of toxins produced by fungi. Amid challenges such as modifying reference methods for specific traits, various applications have been developed to cover almost all cereals. Most have been for key traits including moisture, protein, starch and oil in the globally important food grains, i.e. maize, wheat, rice and barley. SK-NIR applications have also proven valuable for sorting grain infected with a fungus or mycotoxins such as deoxynivalenol, fumonisins and aflatoxins.

Still, development of cost-effective technologies for high-speed sorting that can be used for small grain samples (e.g. from breeding programs or commercial sorting) that are capable of sorting tons per hour is needed, according to a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture​.

Further development also includes standardization of SK reference methods to analyze single kernels. For protein content, the use of the Dumas method would require minimal standardization. On the other hand, for starch or oil content, considerable development would be required. SK-NIR, including the use of hyperspectral imaging, will improve our understanding of grain quality and the inherent variation in the range of a trait. In the area of food safety, this technology will benefit farmers, industry and consumers alike if it enables contaminated grain to be removed from the human food chain.

Source: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Article first published online Sept. 19, 2013
DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.6367
“Applications of single kernel conventional and hyperspectral imaging near infrared spectroscopy in cereals”

Authors: G. Fox ​and M. Manley

Related topics: Milling & Grains

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