Test Your Grain or Test Your Luck

On Monday, the USDA reported significant progress in the spring wheat harvest. The 76% completion figure is well ahead of the five-year average by 10 percentage points.

It was also an 18-point increase from last week and signaled that farmers from Washington to Minnesota could wrap things up quite soon.

There’s a lot on farmers’ minds right now…

We just want to remind you that it’s critical that you don’t overlook a critical step in your marketing progress.

You need to get your grain tested…

Here’s why… and an easy way to do it on the cheap.

Don’t Overlook These Factors

Some people overlook the grain testing process and the associated costs because they fail to understand what is being tested and why.

So, let’s just take a step back and explain the specifications that buyers are looking for and why they matter.

First, protein percentage. 

The percent of protein in your wheat is a vital figure in determining just how much the gluten structure has developed. Different levels of protein present different baking qualities.

Millers want to know the protein figure because it is a key indicator of how the wheat will perform in its intended culinary use.

But there are other things that people don’t think about. Protein content is also an important variable in understanding the grade, storage and blending capabilities.

Second: Moisture

There are some people who overlook the grain testing process or their current process fails to provide an accurate representation of their harvest.

This is a mistake… especially when it comes to the issue of grain moisture.

If you fail to test your moisture (the amount of water in your grain) or you have an inaccurate test, you can face spoilage, extra drying costs, moisture shrinkage, and loss of value for your grain.

One important think to keep in mind is that a lot of rain in the final stage of plant growth can fuel high moisture figures. As a result, that uptake in water can lead to a decline in the overall protein content due to the increase in weight in the grain.

Excess moisture can also lead to mold, insect infestation, and even spouting during storage. Your buyers will walk away from those risks.

Next up… Test Weight. 

This one’s easy… and important.

Test weight is looking at the density of the grain, which is a good determinant of just how developed the grain is.

The measurement is the calculation of kilograms into hectoliters (kg/hL).

A good density figure suggests strong development.

Strong development means that the grain will meet the standards of millers.

But it’s not just the end user who cares. Buyers want to know this number because they have very specific transportation and storage requirements. It will also affect shipping rates.

Finally, we want to know the falling number (and HVK).

Now, this may sound a little tricky.

But the falling number is a measurement of weather damage.

Basically, early sprouting from weather damage affects the quality of the wheat. This is a measurement of viscosity, and weather damage dramatically impacts the quality of the grain.

Such damage can reduce the strength and performance of wheat dough. It also affects the shelf life of bread and the volume of the bread loaf.

The falling number is reported in seconds, and a figure below 300 generally is an indication that the crop has been damaged by weather and early spouting.

There’s also the measurement of hard vitreous kernels that buyers care about. It refers to the translucent or “glassy” appearance of individual kernels. Vitreousness is also related the wheat’s protein and can impact the flour produced when milled.

Buyers Want What They Want

In today’s agricultural space, one can argue that it’s a buyer’s market. In the past, if you wanted to sell your excess grain, you probably had to take your grain to the local elevator and take whatever they offered.

But grain testing flips the relationship and gives the seller power in the market.

High quality wheat that has a high protein content, favorable moisture content, low falling number, and strong test weight will go at a premium…

Particularly in a tight market.

In June, we spoke to a grain buyer who discussed the importance of grain testing and explained that having access to all of this data raises the probability that they will go outside of their network to make a deal with farmers who have the grain she wants…

“As a buyer, one of the most valuable things on a website like FarmLead is that we need to see those tests,” said Courtney Boryski, a grain trader with Hansen-Mueller. “With durum, spring wheat, and hard wheat we need to see these quality specs.”

Boryski said she could set prices like an elevator, but if she can find the grain she wants (and the specifications), she’ll pay more.

“It’s valuable to see if they have grading tests for what they are selling,” she said. “I may pay higher a higher price because I can get what I want.”

How to Get Your Grain Tested

If you can’t answer protein content, test weight, falling number, and moisture content, you’re not ready to go the market.

And you’re certainly not going to get the best price possible for your grain.

Knowing your specifications is the only way to attract the attention of buyers. 

You can get started right now. It takes a few minutes, and you can access these specifications and more.

GrainTests.com is the easiest way to get access to grain testing labs all across Canada and ensure that you can obtain detailed insight into the quality of your grain.

With 24-hour access, you can schedule your grain test, submit your sample, and receive your custom results via email quickly and securely. Further, you can work with multiple labs at the same time!

Go to GrainTests.com and get to know your grain today.



About the Author
Garrett Baldwin

Garrett Baldwin is a content strategist and editor at FarmLead. He covers the global grain markets and public policy issues related to the agricultural industry. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Economic Policy from The Johns Hopkins University, an MS in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, and an MBA in Finance from Indiana University.

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