Mildew and Frost Could Result in Grading Differences Between Grain Buyers

The results are in. Wet weather early in the growing season and again during harvest took a toll on the quality of this year’s crop in Western Canada.

Mildew is the most common downgrading factor in spring wheat this year, reports Daryl Beswitherick, Manager of Quality Assurance and Reinspection with the Canadian Grain Commission.

“Last year, in the red spring crop, about 75 percent of the crop was in the top two grades. This year we’re anticipating that number could be down into the 30 to 40 percent range, maybe lower,” he says in the video below.

Samples submitted to the CGC’s Harvest Sample Program have confirmed what farmers have been reporting in the field; along with the mildew in spring wheat, fusarium levels are very high in the red winter wheat crop and mildew, sprouting and midge damage have led to downgrading in durum. Beswitherick says they’re also starting to see frost as a grading factor.

“We haven’t seen a lot of frost in wheat yet, but with the frost and snow that we got in Alberta, we expect to see some frost damage in wheat this year as well,” he says.

The prevalence of mildew and frost — both grading factors that are assessed on a subjective basis — could result in more variability in grading between elevators, he notes.

“There’s no exact percentage that’s applied to it. We create standards and guide samples that we share with the industry to help guide everybody onto the same page,” he says. “This year with mildew as the prevalent grading factor and frost probably coming a bit later, it’s who’s looking at it. The grading lights are very important — you need the proper lighting to see it. So it is a bit more of a challenge, as it’s subjective and more of an opinion.”

If a producer disagrees with the grade, dockage, moisture or protein assessed by an elevator, they can submit a sample to the CGC for a binding grade that the grain company must honour.

With premium prices being offered for high protein wheat, some farmers are also concerned about variability in protein tests between elevators.

“They shouldn’t be different, but it is the responsibility of each elevator and elevator company to monitor and calibrate their own protein machines,” explains Beswitherick. “Is there a chance that some are slightly different? Yes. There’s also an error rate that goes with the protein machines of plus or minus 0.2, so you could get a slight difference from two machines, and both would be accurate.”

Again, if a producer disagrees with an elevator’s protein test result, they can appeal to the CGC for a binding certificate. Beswitherick notes they can also get their sample checked by an independent third party or receive an unofficial grade through the CGC’s Harvest Sample Program.

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