Grain commission continues work on moisture test discrepancies

The Canadian Grain Commission says it will continue to provide guidance on steps that grain farmers and grain elevators should take to ensure they get accurate readings from their grain moisture testers.

Again this year, prairie farmers have expressed frustration over what they describe as “costly discrepancies” in grain moisture readings.

Moisture readings from 919-type testers, which are commonly used on western Canadian farms, are often lower than grain moisture readings from UGMA-type testers, which are typically used at grain elevators.

Minor discrepancies in grain moisture readings between the farm and the elevator can result in costly drying charges or contract discounts, say farmers who have contacted The Western Producer.

Remi Gosselin, spokesperson for the CGC, said the grain commission is aware of the discrepancies and is working to address farmer concerns.

Earlier this year, the commission issued a trade memo outlining updated moisture calibration information for both 919s and UGMAs, Gosselin said.

The CGC has already looked into concerns that grain sample temperatures — particularly in field peas — can influence moisture readings from the different types of testers.

Research conducted in February suggests that field peas will produce variable moisture test results if the pea samples do not fall within recommended temperature parameters.

There are a number of factors, in addition to sample temperature that can influence moisture meter results, Gosselin said.

Those factors could explain the differences between the two technologies, he added.

“We’re aware of (farmers’) concerns and what I would say is that… sample temperature affects measurements,” Gosselin said.

The 919 type testers, for example, should only be used to test pea moisture levels when sample temperatures are between 11C and 30C.

“Sample temperature is important,” Gosselin said.

“It has a big impact on the moisture readings if it’s not within (the proper) temperature range.”

Gosselin said the CGC had hoped to conduct additional research this year, on a wider range of crops, to assess the relationship between grain sample temperatures and moisture readings derived from different types of moisture testers.

“Our plans are to continue to evaluate the impact of temperature on other calibrations for other crops …,” he said.

“COVID-19 did have an impact on our plans to look at other crops this spring and summer, so that work has been delayed,” he added.

But it will be resumed in the coming months.

Gosselin said there’s also a difference in how the different types of testing technologies (919s versus UGMAs) calculate moisture readings.

“The 919 uses different measurement frequencies than the UGMA… and that would explain why the measurements are different,” he said.

Farmers who use 919 testers say 919 technology was considered accurate and reliable for decades before the widespread adoption of UGMA style testers by most major grain companies.

The fact that 919 test results are now being questioned by the industry — and calibration instruction adjusted — suggests that farmers are now expected to deliver grain that is drier and lighter, or face financial penalties.

Gosselin said the CGC does not stipulate what type of moisture tester must be used. Both technologies are acceptable, as long as they are properly calibrated and maintained.

“Our view at the grain commission is that regardless of the manufacturer for moisture meters, if they are properly maintained and the calibrations are used appropriately, the differences between the technologies, on average, are small.”

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