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Cold plasma storage lift

Figure 1 Difference in the root and shoot growth of eight-day-old seedlings germinated from untreated and cold plasma-treated wheat grain.
Photo: Plant Health Australia

Australia is known for supplying high-quality, contaminant-free grain to the international market and for developing new storage pratices to keep it that way.

Maninder Kaur, a PhD student at Murdoch University, in Western Australia, is doing research to improve the storage life of post-harvest cereal grain while maintaining its quality.

"We apply a voltage to gas like air, helium, argon or a mixture of these to create positively and negatively charged particles that are called cold plasma," Ms Kaur says.

"It can be used to treat grain at temperatures less than 40C so it doesn't harm the food products it's used on. The treatment is also chemical-free when air us used to make it.

"This has major benefits over chemical or physical post-harvest treatments that often leave residues or may change the nutritional properties of treated grain. It may be a way to treat stored grain that is environmentally friendly and free from chemical residues."

Ms Kaur is treating the fungi that causes Fusarium head blight (Fusarium graminearum), and the poisonous chemicals it produces called mycotoxins.

"I'm also looking at the potential impact this treatment has on the grain. Our early tests show we can control the growth of fungi in the lab and it does not change the ability of the grain to germinate," she says.

"Instead, we have found it increases the seedlings' root and shoot growth."

More information: Kirsty Bayliss,

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