Ukrainian wheat crop-2020: quality and safety under the spotlight

Source

APK-Inform

1994

Ukrainian wheat crop formed under rather unstable weather conditions in 2020 that influenced not only on yield and production volume but also on quality of the grain. Arina Korchmaryova, Vice President - Baltic, Black and Caspian seas Business Group at Cotecna Inspection told about the quality of Ukrainian wheat in interview with APK-Inform.

We have discussed several series of questions within the interview: general issues on quality and safety of Ukrainian wheat and importers’ requirements, quality of wheat of the harvest-2020, chlorpyriphos and other pesticides.

 

 

 

Ukrainian wheat crop-2020 and importers’ requirements

 

- Ukraine will remain among TOP-10 largest wheat exporters in the world in 2020/21 MY, despite expected decline of export volumes. However, Ukrainian traders face new quality and safety requirements of importers every year. What should be on special focus while exporting wheat this season?

 

- Overall quality of Ukrainian milling wheat of the harvest-2020 is good with high protein and gluten content, high falling number and strength of the dough (W).

However, we expect that elevators may get batches of milling wheat of rather varying quality as to the rheological properties. On top of it, besides the usual heterogeneity of wheat batches from different regions, we need to consider the human factor when it comes to blending of wheat. The average protein content of Ukrainian milling wheat is rather high this year and is about 12.3%. Moreover, batches of wheat with protein content exceeding 13% are coming into elevators. Thus, they can blend cheaper feed wheat with milling wheat to get batches with 11.5% protein content.

Let’s look at the following example. Wheat with 12.5-13.5% protein content was blended with 10.3-10.8% protein wheat to target a composite parcel with 11.5% protein content. The average protein content was good at 12.25%. However, high heterogeneity of such batch can result in flour with different characteristics on separate lots forming the vessel loading. W value (strength of the dough) was lower than 150 on some lots. At the same time, the average share of bug-ridden grains was very good at 0.20% for the whole parcel.

Thus, careful consideration of parcel homogeneity is a good practice.

 

- What importing countries have made quality norms tougher recently? What norms exactly?

 

- Importers’ contractual requirements regarding the quality of milling wheat specify a standard set of parameters with common limits. However, some countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Yemen pay attention not only to the regular characteristics (protein, gluten, falling number, flour strength), but also to such additional rheological characteristics as dry gluten, gluten index, P/L ratio, sedimentation and delayed sedimentation that allow the to make a better assessment of actual backing properties of export batches.  

As already mentioned, the homogeneity of batch is very important for manufacturing of bakery products with expected quality. Thus, some contracts specify laboratory assessment of rheological characteristics for each lot and not only for a composite sample.

 

- To what norms of the EU do Ukrainian traders and agrarians need to pay attention the most to avoid negative consequences while export grain?

 

- Wheat is the least problematic product as to the safety parameters. Traditional risks come from mycotoxins - product of metabolism of mold fungi Fusarium typical for our area, as well as some pesticides popular among farmers due to low price and efficiency. Usually, we face small quantity of mycotoxins on wheat samples, and as to exported parcels, there were no cases over the last 5 years when the limit of mycotoxins content surpassed both European norms for feed (Directive 2002/32/EU) and food norms (Regulation 1881/2006). However, it is worth mentioning that this year, the exceeding content of vomitoxin has been detected on some samples coming from West Ukraine. We have not seen risky figures for pesticides as well considering current EU limits 396/2006. We will discuss pesticide issues a bit later while discussing updated MRLs of the EU. 

 

- What can you advice to Ukrainian farmers considering the near term development prospects of production of main agricultural crops amid global climatic changes as well as growing demand for products with minor chemical treatment and heightened attention to safety of imported products?

 

- Yes, lowering the usage of chemicals and a shift to organic agriculture is surely a prospective trend. We see the growing number of such farms and it is a positive trend as the food is becoming purer, tastier and healthier. Indeed, it is a long and difficult journey and we think there is the need of governmental support for it. We would like to wish Ukrainian farmers to have both the strength and a patience to stay firm and consistent on this path, as they might have a temptation to return to tried and tested efficient chemicals. The conversion time is 7 years and to follow the new chosen path is the most important over this period. As well as not to try to equivocate hiding the use of pesticides from certifying bodies.  

 

Wheat quality and safety

 

- What can you tell about the quality of Ukrainian wheat of the harvest-2020 compared to the preceding year? What is the ratio of milling and feed wheat?

 

- We forecast the ratio of milling and feed wheat at 40:60 correspondingly this year.

The quality of wheat of the harvest-2020 nearly matches the average figure of the preceding crop. At the same time, despite high protein content, the quality of protein in some batches is rather low due to the soft bond between protein molecules that results in weak gluten.

However, we can fully estimate the quality of milling wheat in about 3 months after accumulation and storage on elevators as the grain biochemical processes reach the balance over this period.

Additionally, the same as 2 years ago, there were unfavorable weather conditions (rains) just before the start of the harvesting campaign. Thus, in some regions, wheat was harvested in the wet weather. That provided development of a higher percentage of molds (fungi) in some batches of wheat compared to the last year. 

 

- What is the regional peculiarities of wheat quality in Ukraine?

 

- The quality can be rather heterogeneous as the amount of precipitation varied across the Ukraine.

On the one hand, dry and hot periods with heavy rains in between combined with adequate fertilizers application favor the formation of high protein content. On the other hand, the quality of protein is sensitive to high temperature and lack of moisture. Thus, dry weather resulted in high protein and gluten content in southern regions, however, the quality of gluten is low. Such weather conditions lead to weak bonds between molecules and also influence the shift in proportion between protein molecules. The same situation was observed in 2019 however to a greater extent.

This year we expect to see the batches with different baking quality depending on the producing region. 

 

- Every year Ukrainian millers discuss the lack of milling wheat or its improper quality. What is the quality of milling wheat this year?

 

UKRAINIAN MILLING WHEAT – Crop 2020 (exported parcels)

Statistic indicator

Moisture, %
ISO

Test weight, kg/hl

Protein, %
ISO

Wet gluten, % ISO-1

Wet gluten, % ISO-2

Falling number, sec

Deformation energy, W

Foreign matter, %

Bug-ridden grains

Damaged grains, %

Broken grains, %

Shrivelled grains, %

Sprouted grains, %

Bunted grains, %

EN/ISO

EN/ISO

EN, as Unsound

ISO

EN/ISO

EN

ISO

EN/ISO

EN/ISO

MIN

10,24

78,0

10,99

24,80

23,10

327

218

0,21

0,11

0,02

2,38

1,22

0,10

0,07

0,00

0

MAX

12,81

82,2

14,67

28,40

26,00

428

325

0,98

1,80

0,34

6,77

4,94

1,08

0,25

0,25

0

AVE

11,51

79,8

12,30

27,42

25,60

383

265

0,46

0,44

0,12

3,97

2,85

0,71

0,18

0,07

0

 

- As was already mentioned, on average, main qualitative characteristics of Ukrainian milling wheat of the harvest-2020 are rather good.

One more parameter confirming good quality of Ukrainian milling wheat is sedimentation and delayed sedimentation.

Statistical data of our laboratory shows that the sedimentation results reveal rather good gluten quality for baking (average 35 ml). Moreover, delayed sedimentation shows a minimum +5 ml that confirms good gluten quality. 

 

- As far as we know, Cotecna examined the condition of fields prior to the start of the harvesting campaign. What was the condition of wheat with regard to quarantine organisms?

 

- The overall pest infestation of wheat during the vegetation period was satisfactory in 2020, except Odessa, Mykolaiv, Kropivnitskiy and Cherkasy regions, where the mass reproduction of certain types of harmful insects (wheat aphids, thrips, meadow shade moth) was observed. Injurious bugs were observed in all regions with the highest rates in central and southern regions. Examination of viral diseases occurrence revealed leaf mosaic evidence typical for five types of phyto-viruses. The highest viral status was observed in central, southern and eastern parts of Ukraine. Six types of plant phytohelminths both phytopathogenic and saprophyte were identified. The phytohelminths were found in great numbers in Khmelnytskyi region.

 

- What about fungus diseases and mycotoxins?

 

- Climatic conditions promoted the development of spike diseases at the end of the vegetation period. Fusarium disease was observed across many regions with the highest rate in Zhytomyr and Ternopil regions.

Alternaria blight was mostly observed in samples from Odessa, Mykolaiv and Dnipro regions.

Cladosporium mold plants were found in all regions with their number exceeding last year level.

Damage from common bunt was moderate in samples from seven regions (mostly in Zhytomyr and Kharkov regions).

Loose smut was observed on fields in Kropivnitskiy, Lviv and Ternopil regions.

Spot disease was widely spread in Cherkasy and Khmelnytskyi regions.

 

As to the safety parameters, Cotecna Phytosanitary Crop-tour revealed that the spread of the fusarium disease (Fusarium spp) is more intense this year compared to 2019 that could lead to higher number of mycotoxins produced by fusarium in case of non-appropriate storing techniques applied after the harvesting. This category includes such controlled mycotoxins as vomitoxin (deoxynivalenol), zearalenone and Т2/НТ2. Along the new Ukrainian standard DSTU 3768 - 2018, the maximum permissible amount of these mycotoxins for wheat is limited according to Sanitary Regulations and Standards No368 that correlate with the European Regulation of the EU 1881/2006. Analysis of the current situation and the statistical data of recent years allow saying that the content of vomitoxin and zearalenone on exported parcels does not exceed the limits set.

Currently, the EU recommends the sum of T2 and its metabolite HT2 with the following restrictions:

Unprocessed cereals (cereals that were not mechanically or heat treated except drying, cleaning and grading):

- barley (including malting) and corn = 200 ppb

- wheat, rye and other grains = 100 ppb

At the same time, these limits are under discussion by the European Committee as they consider the toughening of the limits (50 ppb for barley and corn; 20 ppb for wheat). This fact combined with the possible detection of these mycotoxins could require additional control.

 

Chlorpyriphos and other pesticides

 

- The EU changed the norms of chlorpyriphos residual content in importing agricultural products that was the most discussed issue this year. What can you say about chlorpyriphos content in Ukrainian grain?

 

- Chlorpyriphos is widely used as a contact insecticide both on fields and during storage. The last one is the main source of contamination. Current limits set by the EU for wheat are 0.50 ppm, and the usual application of the chlorpyriphos does not cause the exceeding of the limit, despite rather frequent detection – residuals of this pesticide were revealed in each fifth sample (tab. 1).

Table 1

Pesticides

LOD, mg/kg

LOQ, mg/kg

EU Lim
(actual),  mg/kg

Number of analyses excessing LOQ or
LOD (positives)

Number of analyses excessing EU limits

Chlorpyrifos

0,002

0,005

0,50

20,2 %

0 %

 

However, the toughening of the limits by 50 times (the new limit at 0.01 ppm to be in force starting from November 13th, 2020) turns 10.5% of export grain into a problem (tab. 2).

 

Table 2

 

Pesticides

LOD, mg/kg

LOQ, mg/kg

EU Lim
(NEW!),  mg/kg

Number of analyses excessing LOQ or
LOD (positives)

Number of analyses excessing EU limits

Chlorpyrifos

0,002

0,005

0,01

20,2 %

10,5 %

 

Here, I would like to add on the importance of laboratory equipment and qualifications of personnel. European requirements to pesticides MRLs, authorized pesticides as well as test-sensitivity and objectivity are toughened every year. A laboratory is responsible for analysis quality assurance and its qualification is confirmed by a certificate of accreditation ISO 17025. For this, the laboratory must prove the validity of its operation. Such proofs include validation reports for each pesticide as well as successful participation in interlaboratory comparison (ILC) proving its qualifications.

We recommend always to ask for a Certificate of Accreditation ISO 17025 and accreditation sphere to understand the capability of the laboratory and its quality service level to be able to rely on it for pesticide testing. It is also important to check the equipment sensitivity and the list of pesticides, which the laboratory can analyze, and on what matrixes. The sensitivity is characterized by the LOQ (Limit of Quantification) parameter. Usually the modern equipment can provide the level of 0.005-0.010 mg/kg (ppm). If the laboratory is able to show such, you can trust it. 

 

- What about the residuals of other pesticides in export parcels of Ukrainian grain?

 

- Farmers apply more pesticides for grains targeted for food use. It is a well known fact that various pests damage grain and cause the decline of protein content resulting in worse quality and lower grade. Therefore, farmers use different purpose-made pesticides (insecticides, fungicides and herbicides) during the whole period of growth and development of grain to save the crop to the greatest possible extent. On the basis of the results of testing of 2019/20 MY samples, we formed the following list of frequently detected pesticides cases presented in tab. 3.

Table 3

 

Pesticides*

LOD, mg/kg

LOQ, mg/kg

EU Lim
(actual),  mg/kg

Number of analyses excessing LOQ or
LOD (positives)

Number of analyses excessing EU limits

Chlormequat

0,003

0,01

7,00

12,0 %

0 %

Cypermethrin

0,003

0,01

2,00

1,6 %

0 %

Deltamethrin

0,003

0,01

1,00

1,8 %

0 %

Dimethoate

0,003

0,01

0,05

2,0 %

0 %

Flutriafol

0,003

0,01

0,15

4,6 %

0 %

Glyphosate

0,003

0,01

10,00

10,0 %

0 %

Piperonyl-butoxide

0,003

0,01

NL (0.01)

5,0 %

0 %

Pirimiphos methyl

0,003

0,01

5,00

25 %

0 %

Tebuconazole

0,003

0,01

0,3

12,0 %

0 %

* Chlorpyriphos is placed in the separate table

 

At the same time, it should be noted that all cases of pesticide detection were not risky and below the EU-limits.

The list for feed wheat is smaller, however, the number of cases of pesticide detection is higher. However, all cases below the EU-limits (tab. 4).

Table 4

 

Pesticides

LOD, mg/kg

LOQ, mg/kg

EU Lim
(actual),  mg/kg

Number of analyses excessing LOQ or
LOD (positives)

Number of analyses excessing EU limits

Chlormequat

0,003

0,01

7,00

25 %

0 %

Glyphosate

0,003

0,01

10,00

16 %

0 %

Pirimiphos-methyl

0,003

0,01

5,00

52 %

0 %

Tebuconazole

0,003

0,01

0,30

13 %

0 %

 

- Taking into account the careful attention paid to the quality and safety of exported products, it would be right to revise the norms of grain chemical treatment in Ukraine. What do you think?

 

- We absolutely agree. The safety of domestically consumed products is a high priority and should be addressed. European norms are revised, analyzed and toughened on a regular basis.  The European state control bodies have all proper means for the research and control, while the situation is more pessimistic in Ukraine. It would be right to start with the revision of the list and limits of State Sanitary Regulations and Standards regulatory document 8.8.1.2.3.4-000-2001 that has not been updated since 2001 and many limits and test methods stated in it are out of date.

 

Arina, we thank you so much for the interesting information. We offer you to come back to wheat quality issue in 3 months after accumulation and storage of wheat on elevators. Moreover, we offer you to discuss sunflower seed quality in October that is under high attention now.

 

Interviewed by Elena Cherednichenko

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