29 September 1995

Night light on seed viability

BIOLUMINESCENCE, the mechanism that allows fireflies to attract one another at night, has useful potential for assessing viability in barley grains, according to a new Home-Grown Cereals Authority report* from researchers at BRF International.

Maltsters need a fast, dependable test to monitor barley at maltings intakes, the report says.

Current quick red-staining methods based on tetrazolium can sometimes give false results, adds BRF researcher Debbie Parker. Bioluminescence appears the most promising of several alternatives.

The researchers claim the main drawback is that the new method, based on extracting the enzyme ATP, only works successfully on a grain-by-grain basis.

"Weve highlighted the fact that its a possibility. Were now waiting for the engineering breakthrough to get it to a practical stage," says Ms Parker.

*The Evaluation of Methods for Assessing Barley Viability costs £5 from HGCA, Hamlyn House, Highgate Hill, London N19 5PR.