Early submissions to the Canadian Grain Commission’s harvest sample program confirm what most growers suspected about Western Canada’s 2017-18 wheat crop.
The quality of new crop durum and hard red spring wheat looks to be very good with few downgrading factors, low fusarium levels and excellent overall quality.
“In terms of quality, everything that’s coming off … continues to be very good,” said the commission’s Daryl Beswitherick.
“It’s very refreshing, after last year, to have the quality that we do.”
The commission’s harvest sample program encourages farmers to submit samples of new crop grains as they come off the field.
The samples are sent to the commission’s quality labs where they are graded and tested for different quality characteristics.
Beswitherick said the number of samples tested so far is very low but early results are encouraging.
“It’s very early on but 88 percent of the crop is grading No. 1 for hard red spring and 10 percent is No. 2, so virtually all of the crop so far is in the top two grades,” Beswitherick said.
“It’s really, really good.”
Only 452 samples of Canada Red Spring Wheat (CWRS) have been tested, which is about 15 percent of the 3,000 to 3,500 samples that are normally tested under the program.
A few factors are resulting in grade loss in CWRS samples, Beswitherick said.
A few have a “pinball” look, suggesting a lack of hard vitreous kernels (HVK).
Fusarium is also present in some samples from southern Manitoba and an occasional sample is downgrading because of wheat midge damage.
Overall, results from the program are consistent with assessments from grain companies and industry groups.
A similar story is emerging from early durum samples.
Out of 291 samples analyzed, 63 percent are grading No. 1 and 23 percent are grading No. 2.
The program normally analyzes about 1,200 durum samples in any given year.
“Again, about 85 or 86 percent of (the durum) … crop is in the top two grades,” Beswitherick said.
“But what we are seeing … is that test weight is coming into play a little bit quicker in durum than red spring wheat.”
As of Sept. 12, about 68 percent of the durum samples that graded No. 2 were downgraded because of low test weights.
“The samples that are downgrading for test weight are beautiful looking samples. They’re 100 percent HVK, they look really nice, but they just don’t have the weight,” he said.
“In the southern part of Saskatchewan, it was just too hot, too dry and the kernels didn’t fill.”
Shrunken kernels are also evident in durum samples that are grading No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5.
Shrunken kernels are kernels that go through a No. 4.5 slotted sieve.
Despite a mostly positive assessment, protein levels have emerged as a bit of a surprise.
In a dry production year, growers normally expect to see lower yields but higher protein levels.
However, that hasn’t always been the case.
For example, early CWRS samples in Saskatchewan are showing an average protein level of 12.97 percent, compared to 13.5 percent in 2016.
Average protein levels in CWRS samples from Manitoba are also down. Average protein based on early Manitoba samples is 13.16 percent this year, compared to 14.1 percent last year.
Beswitherick said he is not surprised to see lower CWRS protein in Manitoba because yields in that province — particularly in the Red River Valley — are very high.
However, Saskatchewan’s CWRS protein numbers — based on early sample results — are a bit surprising.
“You normally don’t get protein and yield,” Beswitherick said.
“We all know that southern Sask-atchewan didn’t pull in the yield this year, so why some of the proteins, according to our numbers, are low … I’m not really sure on that one.
“I guess we’ll get a better sense of that as time goes on and we start getting into (more) … samples.”
As of Sept. 12, the average protein level in all durum samples was 14.3 percent, including 13.7 percent in No. 1 CWAD and 14.9 in No. 2.
For CWRS, samples from Alberta averaged 14.5 percent, compared to 12.9 in Saskatchewan and 13.2 in Manitoba.
Premiums for high protein CWRS have been widening over the past two weeks.
At some locations, the spread between No. 1 CWRS, 14.5 percent protein and No. 1 CWRS 11.5 protein was in the range of $1.30 per bushel as of Sept. 12.