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Research project helps Alberta grain farmers improve storage methods

Click to play video: 'Research project aims to help Alberta grain farmers improve storage methods' Research project aims to help Alberta grain farmers improve storage methods
A new research project from Lethbridge College is aiming to help Alberta grain farmers cut their losses through improved storage technology and methods. Quinn Campbell explains – Jun 8, 2021

Farmers in Alberta are seeing some of the best profits in grain commodities in years, and record-high prices means its more important than ever to make every kernel count.

When dealing with unpredictable weather, Chandra Singh, applied research chair in agricultural engineering and technology at Lethbridge College’s Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurships, said some methods are more practical than others,

“On-farm drying is the most efficient way,” Singh said.

“This allows farmers to start early harvest and take the crop off the field when its reached its physiological maturity.”

Read more: ‘Harvest from hell’: Alberta farmers demanding action from government

Crops harvested in wet conditions can see reduced yields, or they can spoil all together. Singh wants to help farmers get the best quality they can from their crops through an on-farm grain drying study.

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The project will be one of the largest and most comprehensive on-farm grain drying studies conducted in Western Canada.

“The idea is to have come up with an optimized system which is more energy efficient, faster and drying efficient with minimum shrink,” added Singh.

His research team will deploy wireless smart sensing technology to monitor in-bin grain storage conditions, including temperature and moisture levels.

“I will be using this technology to monitor the bins, see what the condition is, how the moisture is moving, plus I will be able to remotely turn the fan and heater on and off, they will be automated,” Singh said, adding there’s no extra work or cost to the farmers who participate.

Read more: ‘It’s been a real battle’: wet and cool harvest sees surge in grain drying

Crop and grain spoilage equates to millions of dollars cut from the Canadian economy each year.

Lauren Comin, director of research with the Alberta Wheat Commission, one of the organizations funding the study, said a challenging harvest season like we saw in 2019 result in big losses.

“It was estimated that a total value of unharvested acres was $778 million just because of inclement weather around harvest time and wet conditions,” Comin said.

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The three-year, $576,420 study is jointly funded by Alberta Grain Commission, Results Driven Agriculture Research, Alberta Innovates, Canadian Agricultural Partnership and Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission.

Read more: Farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan struggling to harvest snow-covered crops, while Manitoba saw ‘miracle’ snow melt

Grain drying technology is becoming an necessity in many parts of the province, and Comin added the knowledge gained from studies like this could mean a financial boost to the economy and the grower.

“If you think about this project, if it can even allow 10 per cent of that unharvested grain to be harvested, that’s $77.8 million back to farmers.”

Singh is currently looking for wheat farmers with on-farm grain drying and storage capacity of between 20,000- and 50,000-bushel bins to participate in the project.

Read more: Foreign demand for Canadian barley brings spike in price

The goal is to then use the technology and best practices to help farmers of other major cereal grains, as well as oil seeds and pulses.

Farmers interested in participating in the project can contact Dr. Chandra Singh for more details by phone at 587-899-8405 or email at chandra.singh@lethbridgecollege.ca 

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