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Development of postharvest UV treatment to reduce fungal toxins in stored wheat and corn

Principal Investigator

Tatiana Koutchma

Research Institution

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

External Funding Partners

Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program (AIP)

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, through Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program (AIP) – Industry-led Research and Development Stream

Project Start

November 2015

Project End

March 2018


  • Develop, adapt and validate methodologies for evaluating antifungal activity of ultraviolet (UV) treatment on mycotoxin-producing fungi and analyzing mycotoxins in wheat and corn kernels.
  • Adapt UV unit experimental set-up and develop methodologies to optimize exposure of kernels to UV irradiation, measure UV dose and effect of critical process parameters such as UV surface intensity, air humidity, and grain characteristics.
  • Establish the UV dose to achieve a 90% reduction of microorganisms and mycotoxins.
  • Establish processing concept and conditions to achieve targeted degradation of fungi and mycotoxins in stored wheat and corn.


  • The use of UV light treatment in stored grain should be effective in degrading mycotoxins accumulated in the field and farms, and effectively kill/suppress spoilage and mycotoxin producing fungi on wheat and corn grains.
  • The development of a UV light treatment will allow Canadian grain farmers to maintain the quality and safety of their grain products and remain competitive in the global market.

Scientific Summary

Although the levels may vary greatly, mycotoxin accumulations in wheat and corn occur every year in Ontario and across Canada, which not only cause significant economic loss due to drop in market values but also may give rise to food safety risks. Certain strategies have been used at harvest to reduce mycotoxin accumulation in grain, such as adjusting combine to minimize number of infected kernels harvested, and setting equipment to keep tip kernels on the cob. Mycotoxin accumulation in grains is still a great challenge to grain producers and more effective post-harvest treatments are needed to reduce fungal toxin accumulation in stored grains. Short-wavelength ultraviolet (UV-C) irradiation is widely applied in the food industry and for water treatment. Several reports have indicated that UV irradiation could kill or supress microorganisms adhering to grain and reduce the levels of certain Fusarium toxins; however, previous studies have not been conducted on naturally contaminated grain.

The project aims to develop a concept grain UV irradiation system that could later be commercially manufactured to achieve a 90% reduction of microorganisms and mycotoxins and used by Canadian grain farmers to treat wheat and corn kernels before storage. Methodologies will be developed to optimize exposure of kernels to UV irradiation using bench top UV-C chamber. A range of UV-C irradiance will be tested for the experiments by adjusting the distance between grain surface and UV source and by changing the number of UV sources. The experimental variables will include: UV irradiance levels, time exposure, strains of fungi, type of mycotoxins, and concentration of fungi and mycotoxins (high vs low). After the UV dose is established, the effect on the physical parameters of wheat and corn will be measured, including moisture content, pH, protein and water activity.

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