Grain commission tweaks grading tests for start of new crop year

New test for assessing mildew and heat/frost stress will prevent unnecessary downgrading of wheat

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Grading factors for mildew and heat/frost stress when grading western Canadian wheat will be tweaked starting Aug. 1, the start of the 2018-19 crop year, the Canadian Grain Commission has announced.

“It’s not a significant difference,” said Daryl Beswitherick, the grain commission’s program manager for quality assurance standards and reinspection. “The frequency of the factors is a little bit higher in the standards that were approved for use now, but it’s not half a grade difference or anything like that.

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“So will producers see a big impact? Not likely but there’s a difference there for sure.”

The change will see individual standard samples for frost/heat stress and mildew replace the current combined standard samples as the assessment tools for these grading factors in all classes of western Canadian wheat.

Under the previous guidelines, if both factors were present in a delivery, they were jointly assessed using the combined standard samples.

New grain commission research shows these grading factors do not have a compounding negative effect on the end-use functionality of the wheat.

Individual assessment of these grading factors will prevent unnecessary downgrading of wheat while maintaining the high standards of functional quality that customers of Canadian wheat have come to expect.

“This will allow the frequency of the grading factor to be a little bit higher than what it was in the standard and therefore more grain will be put into the highest grade possible,” Beswitherick said.

The changes were recommended by the Western Standards Committee, which represents stakeholders from across the grain value chain, the grain commission said in a news release.

It’s part of the agency’s ongoing initiative to modernize Canada’s grain grading system ensuring grain is graded using the most effective, precise and user-friendly tools possible. That includes, where practical, using instruments in wheat grading — something some farm groups have long been asking for.

There are no instruments on the horizon for measuring heat/frost stress or mildew on the elevator driveway, Beswitherick said, but the commission is investigating the pros and cons of instrument testing for falling number and the mycotoxin DON (deoxynivalenol), sometimes produced by fusarium head blight.

While heat/frost stress (both have a similar effect on end-use functionality) and mildew are subjective grading factors in that there’s no set tolerance based on a percentage of damaged kernels, the effect on functionality has been determined scientifically and the standard samples used by commission and grain company inspectors provides grading consistency, Beswitherick said.

“The techniques that we train our staffs to, and how to assess it, really lends to a lot of consistency,” he said.

“Over the years it has worked… well in the efficiency of handling grain through the handling system and repeatable results from a producer unloading a truck, through loading rail cars, to loading a vessel… Until technology can provide us with another option we will continue to assess frost and mildew this way.”

Several years ago the commission increased the tolerance for mildew after tests revealed a reduced impact on functionality, Beswitherick said. It hasn’t nailed down what caused the change. One hypothesis is it relates to the shift away from swathing to more straight combining. The kernels of standing wheat presumably dry faster than those on the ground.

“The mildew that we’re seeing is not impacting the end-use functionality or flour colour like it once did,” he said.

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