The Canadian Grain Commission is updating guidelines that are used to assess frost, heat and mildew damage in wheat.
The move, announced June 6, is expected to reduce grade losses in wheat and put more money in the pockets of farmers, say sources in the industry.
“It’s an incremental move toward a more objective grading system,” said Geoff Backman, business development and markets manager with the Alberta Wheat Commission.
“We’ve heard concerns from producers in the past about downgrading due to practices that they thought were unnecessary… so we’re pleased with this change….”
Beginning in the 2018-19 crop year, the CGC will adopt individual standard samples for frost damage and heat stress, as well as mildew in all classes of western Canadian wheat.
The individual samples will replace the combined standard samples that are currently used to grade wheat.
Under the current guidelines, if both factors are present in a wheat delivery, they are jointly assessed using the combined standard samples.
For example, a wheat delivery that showed minor frost damage and minor mildew was assessed based on the cumulative effects of both factors.
But under the new system, each factor is assessed individually, meaning that minor damage from either factor is less likely to result in a downgrade.
Daryl Beswitherick, manager of quality assurance at the CGC, said the decision to change the standard samples was based on CGC research that showed the two factors do not have a compounding negative effect on the end-use functionality of wheat.
“As a result, those two grading factors will now be assessed individually, whether you’ve got both in your (wheat) or not. This should result in more wheat retaining a higher grade, which should mean more money in producer’s pockets.”
Beswitherick said grain companies have been informed of the changes and will begin applying the new grading criteria as of Aug. 1.
Backman said the monetary benefits stemming from the changes will vary from year to year, depending on conditions during the growing season and at harvest.
In a year like 2016, for example, mildew and frost were present in a relatively large number of western Canadian wheat samples.
“Changes like this would probably have benefitted a lot of farmers in a year like that,” he said.
Beswitherick said the commission will continue to examine the impact of frost and mildew.
“We haven’t completed our research yet so the process is ongoing… but we have enough data now to determine that we can relax the standards just a little bit,” he said.
“The end-use functionality and milling efficiencies suggested that we could make these changes at this time.