Government of Canada

Government of Canada

February 25, 2009 18:00 ET

NSERC Recognizes University of Manitoba-Agriculture Canada Research Team With Brockhouse Canada Prize

Prize-winners employ engineering, biology and mathematics in the battle against spoilage of stored grain.

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 25, 2009) - Dr. Suzanne Fortier, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), today announced that University of Manitoba agricultural engineer Digvir S. Jayas, and Noel White, an entomologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, have won the 2008 Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering. The prize includes a $250,000 research grant.

Dr. Jayas and Dr. White have spent more than two decades studying the causes of grain spoilage, from excess heat and moisture in storage bins, to damage caused by insects, fungi and bacteria. In Canada, such losses account for an estimated one percent of the total annual crop, but in some developing countries losses are as high as 50 percent. By applying engineering, biology and mathematics, Dr. Jayas and Dr. White have developed internationally recognized prevention techniques proven to reduce spoilage for a variety of cereals, oilseeds and legumes under a wide range of environmental conditions.

"Budget 2009 Canada's Economic Action Plan outlined S&T investment of over $5.1 billion, including significant investments in research and development. The Government of Canada is committed to investing in R&D that addresses real world challenges, not just for Canadians, but for people around the world," said Minister of State Goodyear. "The advances developed by Dr. Digvir S. Jayas and Dr. Noel White will enable Canada to maintain a global reputation for high quality grain, free of insects and pesticide residues."

Around the world, more efficient grain storage solutions mean more food for millions of people, and more efficient use of arable land. Better storage practices also require less financial investment than increased crop production, and a greater amount of food would be made available from the same amount of land.

"The potential impact of this research is enormous, both economically and in terms of our ability to feed the world's growing population," said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. "In Canada, reducing stored grain losses by half would mean annual savings of about $60 million. In countries where losses are much greater, the savings would be significantly higher, and food would be made available for the people who need it the most."

Dr. Jayas and Dr. White were the first to show that stored grain can be dried more effectively when air is forced through it horizontally rather than vertically. This information is being used to design a near-ambient air dryer that will be up to 40 percent more energy efficient than current systems.

Dr. Jayas and Dr. White have also developed new strategies for the early detection of insects in grain bulk, using thermal cameras, soft x-rays and DNA fingerprinting. In addition, they have developed alternative methods for controlling insect infestations, including the use of carbon dioxide rather than harmful pesticides to fumigate grain. This practice has already been adopted by several Canadian grain elevators and organic farmers.

Based at the Canadian Wheat Board Centre for Grain Storage Research at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Jayas and Dr. White are able to reproduce storage conditions from anywhere in the world, and their research findings have been distributed to farmers and grain storage managers internationally.

"This year's winners epitomize the ingenuity and collaborative spirit essential for solving today's complex problems," said Dr. Fortier. "Drs. Jayas and White have developed practical strategies that are already helping to preserve grain supplies in Canada and around the world. Their solutions are helping to provide food for millions of people."

Named after Bertram Brockhouse, the Canadian Prairie-born Nobel Laureate, the Prize honours teams of researchers that combine different disciplines to produce achievements of international scientific or engineering significance.

NSERC is a federal agency whose vision is to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports some 26,500 university students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 11,800 university professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,400 Canadian companies to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects.

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