Test results from the Canadian Grain Comm-ission’s 2013 Harvest Samples Program are showing a lower average protein content for western Canadian red spring wheat than last year. “This year the quality is the same but the protein is down a little,” says Twylla McKendry, program manager and head of crops section, analytical services for the Canadian Grain Commission’s Grain Research Lab (GRL), which offers the program to farmers across Western Canada. “In 2012 average protein was 13.9 and this year it’s 12.8.”
That could be for a number of reasons, says McKendry, but weather is likely a part of the picture, as well as the mix of varieties that farmers are growing from year to year.
The Harvest Sample Program (HSP) gives producers unbiased information about the grade and quality of the wheat they are growing, says McKendry. About 7,000 farmers in Western Canada already participate in the program, but there’s plenty of potential to grow the program and get more detailed data, she says.
“We’ve been out there promoting the program since 2004 at agricultural fairs like Agribition so that farmers can sign up right away at our booth or they can go to our website and sign up online, it’s easy and completely free,” says McKendry.
Samples of grain submitted for the HSP are tested and analysed for protein content and other quality and functional properties by the CGC and the protein data is released every Tuesday as samples are received until the program ends on November 1. The quality test results include analyses of whole grain, flour and dough parametres for red spring wheat.
Protein and quality data
In 2012 the CGC began publishing protein and quality data on its website for 10 crop regions in Western Canada. “Our reasoning was because of variations in soils, climates and the different varieties being grown, regional data was important,” says McKendry. “There are varieties grown in Manitoba that we don’t see in Alberta and vice versa. Farmers tend to grow what works well for their particular soil and climate.”
This regional data allows farmers to see what’s happening in their area with different varieties and compare their own results with what other producers in their region are generally getting and to perhaps help them decide on future management plans.
In response to farmers’ requests to be able to compare regional results from previous years, the GRL has added historical regional data this year. “Over the winter quite a few people asked for previous regional data and since we had that information in our database, we generated 10 years of data to compare to in their specific regions,” says McKendry.
Data from the HSP is also essential to grain buyers and end users and is an important marketing tool for Western Canadian wheat and other crops. Harvest and export quality reports are published annually on the CGC website for wheat, beans, canola, chickpeas, flax, lentils, malting barley, mustard, peas and soybeans. “We combine samples that are the same and make composite samples which we then do a complete analysis on,” says McKendry. “We will mill it, bake it, if it’s durum, we’ll make pasta or noodles out of it, the whole gamut.”
Data from the analysis is published on the CGC website and some of the GRL research scientists participate in new crop missions to different countries like Japan and visit some of the bigger customers for Canadian grains and provide them with the data so the buyers, mills and other users can see that they are getting consistent Canadian quality from year to year.
“The customers want consistency,” says McKendry. “It’s essential because for their processes, for their milling and for their baking, they need to have consistent grains. If the farinograph results are this, they want to be able to look back and see what it was the previous year and lots of times when they get the wheat shipments they’re doing their own testing to see if they are getting the same results.”
The HSP has additional value for the CGC because it allows it to better assess the performance and functionality of individual varieties. “We get pure, not blended varieties,” says McKendry. “By getting samples direct from producers we know we are getting Harvest or Carberry or Glenn or whatever they’re growing. So we can do additional research on that variety.”
The Harvest Samples Program has been running in some form since 1927 and producers have been submitting harvested samples from their farms since the 1990’s.
To read the CGC’s full report on wheat quality, go to the CGC website (www.grainscanada.gc.ca), and type “quality data 2013” in the search box. †