Keep it Clean

Canada exports over 20,000,000 metric tonnes of cereals (wheat, oats and barley) annually, and our global customers expect, if not demand, quality products that are squeaky-clean. In fact, our reputation as a reliable supplier of quality grains hinges on our ability to deliver what we promise. 

As a farmer, you know that producing export quality cereals starts with planting the best seed and managing it carefully.

Importers are increasingly on the lookout for unwanted material in their shipments, and they often test arriving vessels to ensure that contract specifications are being met. Shipments that contain things like wheats of other classes, undeclared barley varieties, excessive pesticide residues or mycotoxins such as ochratoxin (OTA) and deoxynivalenol (DON) can derail export and damage Canada’s reputation. Importing countries have every right to turn shipments away if they contain prohibited materials, causing millions of dollars in losses and placing future business at risk.

So what can you do to help protect Canada’s cereals business? Follow these guidelines closely so we can deliver on our commitments as an industry.

1. ALWAYS FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS WHEN USING CROP INPUT PRODUCTS.

It is as simple as applying for the right reason, at the right time, with the right rate and in the right place.

Only apply pesticides registered for use on your crop type, and always follow the rates and timing listed on the label. Stick to the pre-harvest interval (PHI). The PHI (or Spray to Swath Interval) is the number of days that must pass between the last application of a pesticide and swathing or straight combining.

It is also critical to recognize that spraying fall-applied product outside label recommendations, could lead to market problems down the road. Applying product too early when the kernels are immature not only impacts your yield, it may result in higher than accepted residue levels in the harvested seed and/or a loss of quality.

Read your labels carefully and check out the provincial Guides to Crop Protection or consult your local provincial agronomist for more information.

EXAMPLE: Glyphosate

  • Only spray glyphosate when the crop is 30% or less moisture, in the least mature area of the field. The stem at the base of the head will have lost its green color and a thumbnail imprint will remain in the kernel.
  • Wait 7 - 14 days before harvesting.

2. DO NOT USE UNREGISTERED CROP INPUT PRODUCTS AND CONSIDER SPECIFIC MARKET RESTRICTIONS

All herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and growth regulators must be registered for use by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency before farmers can apply the product on-farm in Canada. Canada sets maximum residue limits (MRLs) on a crop-by-crop basis. In some cases, a product is registered in Canada without a maximum residue limit (MRL) established in our major export markets. This means that cereal crops treated with these pesticides may not be in compliance with the regulations of the importing country. In addition, customers may have their own restrictions that must be considered before using a particular product.

  • Have a crop input plan and consult your crop input provider to know your requirements and the grain end- use before planting.
  • Check that your buyer accepts grain treated with the pesticides used (e.g. glyphosate on malt barley or oats).
  • Ensure that the grain will meet the export requirements in the destination country.

3. ALWAYS FOLLOW THE CEREAL STORAGE RECOMMENDATION

Best practices in cereal storage will help avoid the downgrading of your grain due to cross-contamination, chemical residues, loss of vigour or the formation of harmful mycotoxins such as OTA. OTA forms during storage of grains at higher moistures and is a potent toxin. A number of countries have strict regulations for residues in food and feed.

  • Make sure your storage bins are free of treated seed (which contains pesticides) and animal protein like blood meal and bone meal.
  • Clean bins thoroughly prior to storing grain and only use approved bin treatments (like diatomaceous earth).
  • Ensure that crops are harvested or dried to a level safe for storage.
  • Keep grain in a bin that is cool, dry and well ventilated to avoid spoilage and insect issues.
  • Check storage units regularly for heating, spoilage, insect infestations or other storage problems.

4. GROW DISEASE RESISTANT VARIETIES AND USE PRACTICES THAT REDUCE INFECTION

Fusarium head blight (FHB) has become increasingly prevalent in Western Canada causing yield and quality losses. Tolerances are set very low because of the production of harmful mycotoxins, the most common being deoxynivalenol, (i.e. DON or vomitoxin). In many cases, disease-tolerant varieties are not available or only have limited resistance so it important to use multiple agronomic practices to reduce infection.

Disease Management Practices

FHB infection is initiated by spores being released from infected residue or stubble. Follow these practices to keep FHB from impacting yield and profitability, and to reduce the presence of FHB on seed.

  • Scout fields regularly for disease symptoms and prevalence. Having this information will allow you to determine the effectiveness of your management plan.
  • Maintain a break between cereal crops to allow time for crop residue to decompose. Practice a rotation away from cereal crops for at least one year, preferably two years and avoid planting adjacent to fields that were affected by FHB the previous year.
  • Plant clean seed, preferably certified seed that has documented good quality. This is the first step in keeping your field clean. Have your seed tested to determine if it is of sufficient quality and if a seed treatment is needed.
  • There are currently no varieties with true resistance to FHB; however, cereals vary in their susceptibility. Within the wheat classes there are varieties that have improved resistance. Barley is less susceptible than wheat, but can still develop significant levels of FHB. Overall, oats are the least susceptible to FHB, but because they are often used for food processing, there is a lower tolerance for fusarium damaged kernels (FDK).
  • Consider applying a fungicide when there is elevated risk of FHB based on crop growth stage and weather conditions, wet conditions during flowering and head emergence pose the highest risk.
  • Chopping straw into smaller pieces and the uniform spreading of straw may help to promote the decomposition of infested crop residues.
  • Control grassy weeds that may harbour FHB between cereal crop years.

5. DELIVER WHAT YOU SAY YOU'VE DELIVERED

When you sign a Declaration of Eligibility affidavit at the elevator, you are making a legal assertion that your grain is of the class to which you declare and correctly states whether your grain may contain residues of any crop input product that is specified in the Declaration. It is important to be clear that a declaration signed by a producer is a legally binding document. Any intentional or unintentional mistake in declaration traced back through retained samples will expose individuals and their farms to significant liability. We raise these concerns to ensure that individual producers and the reputation of Canadian export sales are each protected and preserved.

View or print a PDF summary of the Keep it Clean Cereals best production practices.

For more information on how to keep your cereals clean call 1.204.942.2166.