Cold Plasma - A Brighter Future for Canadian Grain

Mar 28, 2024

By Jean-Paul McDonald

Researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered a promising new method for decontaminating grain and boosting seed germination using cold plasma. This low-temperature version of plasma, the state of matter found in stars, offers a safe and effective way to address challenges faced by Canadian grain growers. 

Mycotoxins, harmful fungal toxins, contaminate a significant portion of grain crops globally, including wheat and barley in Western Canada. These toxins pose health risks to humans and animals, and traditional methods for removing them are often ineffective. 

The new cold plasma treatment developed by the researchers decontaminates grains by neutralizing toxins on the surface. This method successfully reduced toxin levels by 54% and holds promise for even greater effectiveness with further optimization. 

The benefits extend beyond decontamination. Treating barley with cold plasma-activated water not only reduced toxins but also improved seed germination by 10-13%. This can lead to increased crop yields and improved efficiency in the malting industry. 

Cold plasma technology offers several advantages. Treatments are fast, taking only minutes to hours, and environmentally friendly as they require minimal resources and leave no residues on the grain. Additionally, plasma can decontaminate the water used in the steeping process, reducing waste and promoting sustainability. 

This research represents a significant advancement for the agricultural industry. By reducing grain spoilage, improving food safety, and potentially boosting yields, cold plasma technology can benefit farmers and consumers. 

The University of Alberta is exploring licensing opportunities for this technology and further research is underway to scale it up for commercial use. These advancements offer exciting possibilities for a brighter future for Canadian grain production. 

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