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CEREALS: A RESOURCE TO BE MANAGED

13 September 20167 min reading

In Massa Marittima, Tuscany, the conference “Cereals: a resource to be managed” was held, organised by OCRIM. Dr. Simona Digiuni, an agricultural biotechnologist, mainly regarded the management of cereal contamination, which can be a result of several different factors. The biotechnology expert listed all the causes of contamination clearly and in detail, and then illustrated the measures to be taken.

ocrimThe 27th of June 2016 was an important day for those who focus their production business on cereals, but also for those who simply see cereals as a raw material that is precious or essential for nutrition. In fact, in Massa Marittima in Tuscany, the conference “Cereals: a resource to be managed” was held, organised by OCRIM S.p.A., offering the knowledge and skills of its experts, in collaboration with Bonifiche Ferraresi S.p.A., a leading agricultural and agri-food company, with the support of National Confederation of Active Farmers.

During the conference, the experts regarded the quality issue, the problems of cereals industry and the precautions to take before and after process for receiving healthy and well-processed products. The first speech, made by Dr. Simona Digiuni, an agricultural biotechnologist with international experience in the field of plant research, mainly regarded the management of cereal contamination, which can be a result of several different factors. The biotechnology expert listed all the causes of contamination clearly and in detail, and then illustrated the measures to be taken.

Explaining that in order to allow cereals to reach the processing stage in optimal condition, they must be monitored since the cultivation phase, Dr. Digiuni also stated: “It is crucial for heavy metals not to be present in high amounts in soil, since they are usually also present in the water used for irrigation. Over the last few decades, urbanisation has certainly favoured the excessive increase in heavy metal traces also in rainwater, which therefore contaminates the soil in which plants are grown and, as a result, also contaminates crops.”

INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT Simona Digiuni presented the issue of fungi, which produce mycotoxins, explaining how dangerous they are due to thermal stability, which allows them to survive heat treatments. She added: “The presence of mycotoxins can generate contaminant microenvironments also during the storage phase, with the risk of contaminating the entire product batch. Plant protection products (useful to fight diseases, insects, fungi and bacteria, weeds harmful for cultivation, etc.) and fertilisers are other contaminants for soil and/or crop plantations. Their use is considered to be vital, but exceeding the doses permitted by law can be extremely damaging. Luckily, over the last few years, there has been a growing tendency to focus on integrated pest management, instead of just using chemicals, a solution also seen as the most convenient. However, it certainly involves more patience, since it requires greater attention and provides slower results.”

Simona Digiuni points out that it is therefore crucial to carry out monitoring based on the restrictions imposed by regulations and/or laws regarding the presence of heavy metals in soil or the use of substances that act as a means of support for crops, which, however, pose a threat to the soil and plants and, consequently, also to human and animal health. In fact, it has been scientifically observed that many cardiovascular diseases, hormonal disorders and autoimmune diseases are the result of unhealthy nutrition due to the excessive use of substances present on/in plants or the substantial presence of heavy metal traces in food and water. Moreover, the biotechnology expert states that it is absolutely necessary to take measures to ensure full product monitoring, starting from humidity control in the environments where products are stored and of products themselves, the identification and removal of product parts that are already contaminated, through to the cleaning and decortication stage.

SOLUTIONS FOR CEREAL CONTAMINATION Following the speech by Simona Digiuni, the director of the technology office of OCRIM, Marco Galli, took the floor. The OCRIM expert also focused his speech and discussion on the issues of cereal contamination and provided technical answers so that, given his field of specialisation, he could suggest solutions to complete the scientific context that was previously illustrated.

Marco Galli started out by saying that “any cereal processing stage must be based on effective and efficient cleaning prior to the following processing stage. This also applies to storage and various special processes.” By means of a pragmatic speech, the OCRIM expert explained what strategies are to be adopted, as well as all the processes and machinery to be used in order to obtain wholesome products. For Galli, to begin with, it is essential to carry out an accurate selection and, foremost, to separate physical impurities according to size and weight difference, using machinery specifically designed for the pre-cleaning and cleaning line.

Marco Galli stated that “during the selection stage, classification, in the sense of compliance with specific parameterisation established in advance, plays a fundamental role. We can thus gather that seeds, in addition to having to be “purified” as much as possible from contaminants, must also comply with the characteristics established to begin with: weight, size and shape, length and/or diameter, density. The expert then listed all the machinery required for this kind of operation, explaining their use and functionality.

NEW TRENDS Afterwards, he discussed the theme of new trends, which he has also addressed in other major conferences and with different audiences and interlocutors. He also pointed out that obtaining wholesome products goes hand in hand with the behaviour of today’s consumers, who are increasingly aware and demanding. The OCRIM expert said that “one of the key aspects of new trends is the fight against chemical and biological contaminants in cereals, since standards are becoming increasingly stricter throughout the production chain and consumers are more and more attentive to such aspects.” Galli also stressed the fact that it is impossible to fully eliminate the problem of contaminants, even if technology has indeed come a long way. However, what is possible, or even necessary, is adequate and accurate management and/or monitoring to reduce negative impacts on the entire production chain to a minimum. In this respect, he also showed and illustrated several innovative machines, which, during processing, involve grain “purification” stages.

“20% OF CEREAL PRODUCTION GOES TO WASTE” Subsequently, Marco Galli focused on cereal storage stages and the silos environment, stating an important truth: “the latest estimates indicate that about 20% of the world’s cereal production goes to waste and/or is damaged due to inadequate storage systems.” The OCRIM expert maintains that, in order to avoid such waste, we need to define in advance the various operation cycles and their simultaneity. “The number and size of individual silos is also essential to ensure the sorting of products divided into equal batches,” Marco Galli continues. He also adds that “it is important to keep temperatures constant and monitored, so that the humidity content does not rise, thus producing microenvironments that may favour an increase in contamination.” According to the studies and research carried out by the OCRIM team, a partial solution to this issue could be achieved through several measures: a proper cereal handling method, memorisation of cycles for each type of product stored, prevention of emergencies, realtime management of the quantities contained in each silo and of the simultaneous storage of different products and, finally, historical traceability of the temperatures reached for each cereal batch during its storage. Marco Galli later discussed several key solutions guaranteed thanks to the automation system offered by OCRIM, which stems from a study and research on the proper, simplified management of a storage silo.

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