Funding research that focuses on the grain value chain is at the heart of Lantmännen’s Research Foundation. 2023’s challenging farming year brings into focus the increased need for knowledge of changing weather conditions.
This year’s growing season was challenging, to say the least. An early summer drought was followed by torrential rainfalls at harvest time. The drought led to a lower harvest and, because of the rain, the quality is poorer than usual. Research that helps plant breeders develop new varieties with desirable traits are some of the projects our foundation supports.
Research that helps plant breeders develop new varieties with desirable traits are some of the projects our foundation supports.
The focus, in addition to high, stable harvests with consistent quality, is on specific characteristics determined by whether the grain will be used for beer, bread, meal or animal feed. For example, malting barley needs a specific protein content and high germination, while bread wheat should have a high protein content and a high falling number, a measure of baking quality. We also support cultivation-related research, because it is, after all, the management of a crop’s growth that ultimately determines quality and harvest levels. Carefully adjusted nitrogen levels, using precision fertilising, determine harvest levels and protein content, while the timing of the harvest, and not least the weather, determines the falling number. In recent years, the Foundation’s focus has broadened to include factors like a crop’s drought tolerance and need for irrigation.
In recent years, the Foundation’s focus has broadened to include factors like a crop’s drought tolerance and need for irrigation.
After harvesting, the grain is dried for stable storage, prior to further processing in a mill, malting plant or feed factory. Maintaining quality during drying and storage is important. A drying project is currently underway at the RISE research institute, with Vinnova as the main financier. It deals with both energy-efficient drying and obtaining the desired moisture content. A high drying temperature is usually more energy efficient, but too high a temperature risks destroying both germination and baking properties. This project also includes storage studies. Cereals must be able to be stored until the next harvest, and a lot can happen in that time. By monitoring storage, the growth of mould or insect attacks can be prevented. This is done by measuring temperature and humidity, and even small changes signal that something is happening. The project is also testing carbon dioxide sensors as a potential early warning system that something is amiss. In conclusion, new knowledge at every stage of the cereal value chain is crucial to future food production in a changing climate.
Text: Anders Lindgren, Lantmännen R&D