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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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High Speed Sorting of Grains
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 Read the full story and watch a video clip of the sorter

Figure 1:
  High speed image based sorter used to separate red wheat from white wheat. The sorter camera  captures  color images of every kernel as they drop off the end of the chute. Camera is programmed to separate kernels by shape, color, having small spots, and surface texture. - Photo courtesy USDA-ARS-CGAHR by Tom Pearson

Automated Color Image Based Sorting of Grains

We have successfully developed a new type of electronic sorting machine that can capture high resolution color images of grain, process these images in real time, and sort the grain.  The machine has found a variety of uses including: detection and separation of many types of weed seeds, discolored seeds, and fungal infected seeds.  This new capability has been adopted by producers of grass seed, flax seed, alfalfa seed, pulses, corn seed, soybean seed, and wheat seed.  The sorter is able to separate seed on the basis of color, shape, surface texture or having small spots that may not effect overall color.  This technology will improve quality of many crops by ensuring better seed that is free from weeds or other contamination, ensuring more uniform seeds, and the technology will help deliver safer foods by reducing fungal contaminated products.  So far, nearly 50 of these machines are used worldwide by seed companies, seed foundations, breeders, and by the NCRS to remove noxious weed seed from grass seed.


High Speed Automated Multi-Spectral Sorting of Grains

Many grains having chemical constituents such as high protein content, or degraded properties such as fungal damaged or sprouting, cannot currently be segregated at high speeds.  It has been shown that many biochemical traits can be identified with near-infrared spectroscopy.  However, traditional spectroscopy methods are slow and expensive.  We have successfully developed a new type of electronic sorting machine that measures near infrared light at a limited number of different spectral bands very quickly.  The machine combines these measurements and can then use them to segregate kernels with high protein content, fungal damaged kernels, or kernels that had started to sprout in the field.  The instrument has been commercialized and is used by breeding programs to help produce high quality seed.



Figure 2:  Multispectral High speed image sorter being used to isolate wheat kernels with high protein. Photo courtesy USDA-ARS-EWERU by Tom Pearson


Last Modified: 9/2/2016
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