. Scientific Frontline: Physicists Have Presented a New Way to Control Wheat Quality

Monday, June 19, 2023

Physicists Have Presented a New Way to Control Wheat Quality

Russia is one of the world's largest grain producers
Photo Credit: Andriy Nestruiev

A team of scientists from the Ural Federal University and the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences has tested a new method that can be used to verify whether wheat has been irradiated and how safe the consequences are for consumers. Without documentation and sophisticated equipment, it is difficult to determine whether grain has been treated. Currently, there are methods for testing irradiated products, but they are more expensive and not as accurate, physicists say. The method of verification proposed by the scientists can make the analysis easier and cheaper, because the products themselves will act as an alternative to the detector in the radiation treatment. The study was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (project № 20-58-26002). The experimental results were published in the journal Radiation Physics and Chemistry.

Ionizing radiation of agricultural products is an effective method of disinfecting and neutralizing harmful microorganisms. This method is widely used in many countries and is approved by international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. After irradiation, the product is safe and does not lose its beneficial properties. Moreover, the destruction of harmful microorganisms (for example, mold) can increase the safety of the same wheat for further planting. In Russia, radiation treatment of agricultural products is allowed by law. There are several facilities in the country that use this type of decontamination. However, this type of food decontamination is not as widespread as, for example, in the United States or China.

"Irradiation of food and agricultural products is gradually being introduced as an effective way to disinfect and safely clean products from harmful microorganisms. This type of disinfection may well become a worthy alternative to chemical treatment of grain destined for export and domestic consumption. However, an increased dose of radiation can damage the product, changing its structure and depriving it of its original properties. Our team has proposed a method to effectively control the radiation dose and make it safe for the end consumer," said Sergey Sokovnin, project leader, Professor at the UrFU Department of Experimental Physics, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Electrophysics, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

It is possible to check whether grain has been exposed to ionizing radiation, both fresh wheat and wheat that has been stored for a long time. The physicists say that the indicator is not needed for this purpose, the grain is the indicator.

"This is the peculiarity of our method. The fact is that wheat retains the radiation signal for a long time. We can measure this signal reliably, accurately and dependably. In other words, any batch of grain that raises doubts about whether it has been irradiated can be checked using an electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectrometer," explains Ruslan Vazirov, Senior Researcher at the UrFU Department of Experimental Physics.

The experiments were performed with an EPR spectrometer at UrFU. After irradiation, the wheat was examined after 2, 24, 48 hours and after 23 days. During the experiments, the amount of irradiation dose and signal intensity were determined. In the next stage of research, the physicists plan to conduct experiments with meat products, which are also treated with ionized radiation and can be produced in Russia both for domestic consumption and for import to foreign countries, in particular, China.

References: Russia's agricultural sector is one of the largest in the world. In 2022, Russian producers managed to harvest more than 153 million tons of grain, including about 104 million tons of wheat. Much of this grain is destined for export. Since July 1, 2022, Russian exporters have sent abroad more than 40 million tons of grain. The main buyers of grain products are the countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The export of Russian agricultural products to the members of the Eurasian Economic Union - Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia - also remains strategically important.

Published in journalRadiation Physics and Chemistry

Source/CreditUral Federal University

Reference Number: phy061923_01

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