Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

Know Your Wheat Quality to Maximize Earnings*

It is important to know all the factors affecting your wheat quality to ensure you are getting the maximum price for this year's crop. This guide will help you determine the factors that could affect wheat quality this year. 

Understand what buyers want.
Sprout damage is assessed through visual inspection and can downgrade your wheat sample. Falling number is known to correlate highly with sprout damage and internationally is an accepted way to measure it. Wheat graded with a falling number greater than 300 is expected to have no or very little sprout damage while wheat under 300 is expected to have sprout damage to varying degrees. The lower the falling number, the greater the concern.

Most international buyers require a falling number of 300 or greater with some buyers requiring over 350 in certain circumstances. Since 2003, the average falling number on a Grade 3, Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat has been well over 300. So if you are being downgraded into a 2, 3 or feed because of sprouting but your falling number is good, you may have the opportunity to negotiate with buyers. Make sure you ask your local buyer if they can do a falling number test or look to get a third-party opinion if you are not happy with your grade.

Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) is assessed through Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) standards on a visual basis. However, the visual inspection may not represent Deoxynivalenol (DON), commonly referred to as vomitoxin levels in your wheat. Therefore, a vomitoxin test may be warranted if your grade is not representative of what your quality actually is.

There are a number of fusarium types in Western Canada, but only Fusarium Graminearum significantly causes DON in wheat.

If you have fusairum in your sample and are satisfied with your grade because you have low levels, you most likely do not need to get a vomitoxin test. If you have levels that have significantly downgraded your sample, getting a vomitoxin test may be worth your while. Your results may find that either:

a) Your levels of vomitoxin do not relate to the levels from the visual inspection or;

b) You have non-DON producing fusarium in your wheat which means your sample may not have vomitoxin at all.

Both scenarios may allow you to negotiate better with your buyers or at the very least help you better understand your quality profile. International buyers are concerned with vomitoxin levels and are typically looking for 2PPM vomitoxin or lower so if you have low levels in your sample this may be more desirable to your grain buyer.


Know your quality.
- If you have received a grade that you feel is not representative of your sample, make sure that you get a second opinion.
- There are a number of different options to get your sample tested today including companies like Intertek and SGS.
- This will be at a fee but a good way to get a second opinion.
- Seed Labs will test for Vomitoxin.
- The Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) will give you a binding grade decision for a fee if you disagree with your CGC licensed grain buyer.

Learn more about Grading Factors here!

Protect yourself: Take representative samples.

Make sure you take proportional samples from every load at harvest time to ensure your sample represents what you have in storage. Ensure that you sample enough to get quotes from several elevators and to send in a test sample for a third party grading if required. If you have well preserved samples that routinely represent what you deliver, buyers will become more confident in your deliveries and increase your bargaining power when you go to market your wheat.

Join the CGC Harvest Sample Program.
Each year the CGC begins assessing the quality of the new crop through the Harvest Sample Program. Producers who participate are sent an envelope and are asked to return it filled with samples of their crop.  In return, the CGC will provide an unofficial grade, dockage, and quality result. A falling number and DON level will also be provided for any wheat samples. This program has no cost to join, and the sample envelopes are postage-paid. In addition, your wheat sample will be used to promote Canadian wheat globally! Sign up online at www.grainscanada.gc.ca.

Learn more about the CGC Harvest Sample Program here!

Take advantage of your marketing options.

More and more farmers are getting second opinions and their samples tested by third parties. Falling number and vomitoxin tests are common and are relatively affordable.  Choose the buyer who best fits your needs and take advantage of your marketing options. To get the best value for your product, know what you have and market it to grain buyers.

For more info on available tests, contact the following labs:
·      20/20 Seed Labs, Nisku, AB, 1-780-955-3435
·      SGS BioVision, Grande Prairie, AB, 1-877-532-8889
·      SGS BioVision, Sherwood Park, AB, 1-800-952-5407
·      SGS BioVision, Calgary, AB, 1-403-290-0903

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