Cereals

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Infobox on Cereals
Example of Cereals
Cereals.jpg
Facts
Origin -
Stowage factor (in m3/t) Ranging between approx. 1,3 and 1,8 m3/t
Humidity / moisture See text and grain
Ventilation See grain
Risk factors See grain

Description / Application

Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain (botanically, a type of fruit called a caryopsis), composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran. Cereal grains are grown in greater quantities and provide more food energy worldwide than any other type of crop[citation needed]; they are therefore staple crops.

In their natural form (as in whole grain), they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, oils, and protein. However, when refined by the removal of the bran and germ, the remaining endosperm is mostly carbohydrate and lacks the majority of the other nutrients. In some developing nations, grain in the form of rice, wheat, millet, or maize constitutes a majority of daily sustenance. In developed nations, cereal consumption is moderate and varied but still substantial.

While each individual species has its own peculiarities, the cultivation of all cereal crops is similar. Most are annual plants; consequently one planting yields one harvest. Wheat, rye, triticale, oats, barley, and spelt are the "cool-season" cereals. These are hardy plants that grow well in moderate weather and cease to grow in hot weather (approximately 30 °C but this varies by species and variety). The "warm-season" cereals are tender and prefer hot weather. Barley and rye are the hardiest cereals, able to overwinter in the subarctic and Siberia. Many cool-season cereals are grown in the tropics. However, some are only grown in cooler highlands, where it may be possible to grow multiple crops in a year.

For a few decades, however, there has also been increasing interest in perennial grain plants. This interest developed due to advantages in erosion control, reduced need of fertiliser, and potential lowered costs to the farmer.

The warm-season cereals are grown in tropical lowlands year-round and in temperate climates during the frost-free season. Rice is commonly grown in flooded fields, though some strains are grown on dry land. Other warm climate cereals, such as sorghum, are adapted to arid conditions.

Cool-season cereals are well-adapted to temperate climates. Most varieties of a particular species are either winter or spring types. Winter varieties are sown in the autumn, germinate and grow vegetatively, then become dormant during winter. They resume growing in the springtime and mature in late spring or early summer. This cultivation system makes optimal use of water and frees the land for another crop early in the growing season.

Winter varieties do not flower until springtime because they require vernalization: exposure to low temperature for a genetically determined length of time. Where winters are too warm for vernalization or exceed the hardiness of the crop (which varies by species and variety), farmers grow spring varieties. Spring cereals are planted in early springtime and mature later that same summer, without vernalization. Spring cereals typically require more irrigation and yield less than winter cereals.

Once the cereal plants have grown their seeds, they have completed their life cycle. The plants die and become brown and dry. As soon as the parent plants and their seed kernels are reasonably dry, harvest can begin.

In developed countries, cereal crops are universally machine-harvested, typically using a combine harvester, which cuts, threshes, and winnows the grain during a single pass across the field. In developing countries, a variety of harvesting methods are in use, depending on the cost of labor, from combines to hand tools such as the scythe or cradle.

A breakfast cereal (or just cereal) is a food made from processed grains that is often eaten with the first meal of the day. It is often eaten cold, usually mixed with milk (e.g. cow's milk, soy milk, rice milk, almond milk), juice, water, or yogurt, and sometimes fruit, but may be eaten dry. Some companies promote their products for the health benefits from eating oat-based and high-fiber cereals. Cereals may be fortified with vitamins. Some cereals are made with high sugar content. Many breakfast cereals are produced via extrusion.

Shipment / Storage / Risk factors

Cereals will mildew in damp storage.

If a crop is harvested during wet weather, the grain may not dry adequately in the field to prevent spoilage during its storage. In this case, the grain is sent to a dehydrating facility, where artificial heat dries it.

The safe maximum moisture content for cereals is in the region of 15%, but with other feeding stuffs the figure may be lower, e.g. about 12% for cattle cake and 9,5% for bone meal. These figures all correspond to the same ‘equilibrium humidity’ of 70 to 75% RH. If the storage humidity greatly exceeds this figure, the outer layers of bulked material may be expected to take up moisture and develop mould growth.

Storage facilities should be protected from small grain pests, rodents and birds.

See also grain for more particulars and risk factors.