WHAT ARE GRAINS?
Grains are the seed heads of grass plants. Over time, certain
species of grasses were found to produce seeds that people preferred
over others. Major grain categories in the world are wheat, rice,
corn, barley, oats, and rye. All of these, except rice are grown in
large quantities in Canada. A kernel of wheat is composed of 3 main
parts: 83% of the kernel is the starchy interior called the
endosperm; 14.5% of the kernel is the protective seed coat called
bran; and 2.5% of the kernel is the part of the seed that will
germinate a new plant called the embryo.
WHERE ARE GRAINS PRODUCED IN BC?
85 to 90% of the grain crops grown in BC are grown in the Peace
River region. Special varieties have been adapted for the soil and
temperature conditions there. There is also some production in the
North Okanagan, around Vanderhoof, around Creston, and in the Lower
HOW MANY GRAINS DO WE PRODUCE?
Barley, oats and wheat are the most common grain crops in BC.
Oats and barley are used mainly as animal feed. BC produces about
108,000 tonnes of barley. Wheat is used both for human consumption
and livestock feed. BC produces about 110,000 tonnes of wheat. This
is about 0.4% of the wheat grown in Canada. Smaller amounts of rye
are also grown. Dry field peas, one of the pulse crops, is a new
emerging crop which is used for both human and animal consumption.
HOW ARE GRAINS PRODUCED?
Through plant breeding, scientists develop new varieties which
are higher yielding and have more disease resistance. Farmers who
specialize in seed production multiply seed of these varieties for
commercial farmers to plant. Farmers prepare the fields for
planting. Most farmers plant in the spring and harvest in August and
September. Some farmers, about 5%, plant winter wheat in September
or October. Winter wheat is harvested in late July and early August.
Before planting a crop, farmers prepare their fields for seeding.
This may entail cultivating the soil, usually applying fertilizers
and then seeding the crop using a seed drill. If required,
herbicides for weed control are used.
When the crop ripens, it is harvested. Wheat, for example, is
ready to be harvested when it is about 1m high and the colour
changes from green to golden. A head of wheat contains 30 to 65
kernels of grain. A combine is used to separate the seeds from the
chaff and straw. Harvested grain is stored in granaries and may
require drying or cooling to do so safely. It is important to
maintain specific moisture levels and temperatures in grain to
ensure that it does not become mouldy.
WHAT DOES GRAIN LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?
Ground grain is called flour. The most common type of flour in
Canada is wheat flour. This is used to make bread, pizza dough, and
pastries. A special kind of hard wheat, called durum wheat, is used
to make pasta. We also eat whole grains when we eat porridge, such
as oatmeal. High quality barley is malted (sprouted and dried) and
used to make beer. Dried field peas are used in such dishes as pea
Grains are also used for animal feed. There are feed mills
throughout BC that make livestock feed. Dried peas are used either
alone or with canola meal as a protein supplement.
Grains are a good source of carbohydrates and protein for us and
for other animals. In wheat, the endosperm contains starch, the bran
contain minerals and vitamins, and the embryo contains protein, fat
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE GRAINS LEAVE THE FARM?
From the farm, most of the grain is taken to grain elevators
where it is graded and sold. Wheat is graded based on the type of
wheat, moisture content, foreign materials, disease or weather
damage. Wheat and barley are exported by the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB)
and food grains may be marketed solely by the CWB. Feed growers have
a number of different marketing channels.
Most of the wheat eaten by people is milled, which means it is
ground into flour. The process of milling involves cleaning the
wheat and removing all foreign materials. The wheat is then
conditioned by adding moisture so that the bran can be removed
easily. Finally, the grain is milled by passing it through large
rollers to grind the wheat. For white flour the bran is sifted out.
Because the bran contains many nutrients, when it is removed flour
loses much of its nutritive value. In Canada, the enrichment of
white flour by replacing these nutrients has been required by law
since 1953. In the last few years, an increasing amount of wheat is
milled into whole wheat flour rather than white.
Barley and oats are usually processed into animal feed. A small
amount of barley is malted for use in beer making.
WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THE GRAIN PRODUCER FACE?
Taking care of the soil is very important for crop growers.
Special seeding methods can help prevent erosion of top soil from
wind and water. Traditionally, the stubble from the previous year's
crop was destroyed and the field was cultivated until a smooth seed
bed was prepared. To prevent erosion of topsoil, however, farmers
are using different methods. Some farmers turn the stubble from the
previous year back into the ground. The roots help hold the top soil
in place. Wheat roots can penetrate the soil to a depth of 1m. Other
farmers use a special seeding technique called minimum or no-till
and plant this year's crop into the stubble of last year's crop.
This is done by a machine which cuts a slice in the ground, drops in
a seed, and covers the seed. This also saves energy and labour
because it reduces the number of times that the farmer has to work
WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING GRAIN?
- Grain growers
- Seed growers
- Dock workers
- Feedmill workers
- Grain inspectors
- Pesticide dealers
- Fertilizer dealers
- Flour mill workers
- Bakery employees
- Ship crew members
- Elevator operators
- Animal nutritionists at feedmills
- Truckers, railway workers
- Farm implement dealers and mechanics
- Airplane pilots for aerial spraying
Interesting Fact About Grain:
Grain crops are also known as cereal crops. This comes from the
Greek goddess of farming, Ceres. The use of wheat dates back
- Contacts and other resources:
- BC Grain Producers' Association
- BCMAL -
Grain and Oilseed Information
- Canada Grain Commission
- Canadian Wheat Board
- InfoBasket: Your Portal to Agri-Food Information on the Internet