A New Method for the Detection of Food and Grain Pests

Background In the United States alone, insect damage to grains totals almost one billion dollars per year in lost product. Much of this loss results from the lack of adequate methods to detect and quantify early infestations in grain samples. Wheat represents a prime concern, where stored grain is prone to infection by the wheat weevil, Sitophilus granarius, and closely related insects. These insects favor storage vessels, typically used in the wheat industry, that trap and hold grain for long periods of time, allowing imperceptible infestations by these insects to thrive and spread. While prevention methods need to be employed, the short lifecycle of the wheat weevil, about one month, results in rapid multiplication that can quickly ruin large shipments of stored grain once viewed as market acceptable.

Detection of hidden infestation is quite important to the grain trading industry; however, all methods currently available are inadequate in accurately assessing the presence and degree of grain infestation, thereby putting purchasers at risk for product spoilage. New methods are needed to detect the presence and degree of wheat weevil infestation quickly and automatically in field or transport settings.

Invention Description The invention uses a novel and inexpensive method of optically detecting the microscopic movements of weevil larvae developing within individual wheat grains. Special illumination methods detect larval movements with high sensitivity and low background noise. Using this system, an operator can detect and quantify the level of insect infestation in a small grain sample, typically weighing about 50 grams, within about 15 minutes. A cost-effective prototype device has been conceived that would allow rapid grain sampling and evaluation under standard field or transport conditions. Such a device can insure the appropriate handling of grain shipments and offer substantial savings to grain purchasing and transporting enterprises.


Very inexpensive Easy to operate Efficient detection time Earlier detection of infestation Optical detection device Automation system designed


Detects hidden wheat weevil infestations Capable of internal detection Sensitive assay with few false positives Detects larval movements

Market Potential/Applications The U.S. agricultural industry loses about $1 billion of grain a year due to insect infestation. This method would be applicable for: government food agency quality standard testing grain industry broker detection before investment assay for determining the effectiveness of pesticides during on-site farm product inspection.

UT Researcher George B. Kitto, Ph.D., Chemistry and Biochemistry, The University of Texas at Austin Roger C. Baker, Ph.D.

Type of Offer: Licensing

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