Harvesting Grain

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harvesting Grain                                                                                                                                                                                                             

One of the world’s largest producers and exporters of agricultural products, Canada prides itself on the quality of its grains. Experts in growing, harvesting, handling and storing grains to ensure the highest market value, Canadian farmers are renowned for producing outstanding crops. Among their achievements was the development of canola (“can” for “Canada” and “ola” for “oil low acid”) in the early 1970s. 

The Canada Grain Act identifies 21 grains as official grains, categorized as follows:

  • Cereals - Barley, oats, rye, triticale and wheat

  • Oilseeds - Canola, flaxseed, mustard, rapeseed, safflower seed, solin, soybeans and sunflower seed

  • Pulses - Beans, chick peas, faba beans, lentils and peas

  • Mixed Grain - A mixture of wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale, wild oats and domestic or wild oat groats

  • Other Crops - Buckwheat and corn

Under the Canada Grain Act, the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) has been given the authority to regulate grain handling in Canada. Headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, this federal government agency is

Canada’s scientific research organization on grain quality, holding responsibility for certifying Canadian grains.

The majority of the nation’s grain production is based in the western provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with some production in British Columbia. Growing conditions are particularly suitable for grain production in the Prairies, where last year canola production hit a record high. Wheat production rose nationally from 2010 to 2011 as well, with a 9% increase (taking production to 25.3 million tonnes) in Alberta and a 20.5% increase (for total production of 11.5 million tonnes) in Saskatchewan.

Grains are harvested in Canada primarily in the fall, although some types of crops, such as winter wheat, are harvested as early as July. 

As in so many industries, environmental concerns are coming to the forefront in the agriculture industry, and grain farmers are taking care in their use of natural resources to maintain their sustainability. As stewards of the environment, farmers are implementing environmental initiatives, including avoiding overharvesting, to preserve the quality of the soil so that it may continue to produce an abundance of grain crops.

Commonly used grain harvesting terms include the following:

  • Combine - a harvesting machine that cuts and threshes grain in the field; to harvest grain with a combine

  • Thresh - to separate the grain or seeds from a plant by mechanical means

  • Overharvest - to plant and harvest at a level so high as to compromise the quality and future growing potential of the land

  • Swath - to cut grain plants and place them in rows directly onto the cut stubble for drying; this hastens the drying rate, ensures even ripening and reduces the potential for seed loss due to wind and hail

  • Winnow - to free grain from impurities such as dirt or chaff (grasses and grain husks) by means of wind or a forced air current


Sources: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canadian Grain Commission, Canola Council of Canada, Grain Growers of Canada, SoyaTech, Statistics Canada