Marketing and Delivery of Quality Grains and BioProcess Coproducts,” dubbed NC-213, is a multistate research project composed of a team of scientists, engineers and economists from leading United States land grant universities, USDA, USDA-ARS research centers and representatives from private industry. This informal research association dates back to the first organizational meeting, held in January 1978 in St. Louis.
NC-213 goals are to characterize quality attributes and develop systems to measure quality of cereals, oilseeds and bioprocess co-products. Objectives are to:
1. Develop methods to maintain quality, capture value and preserve food safety at key points in the harvest to end product value chain.
2. Quantify and disseminate the impact of market-chain technologies on providing high-value, food-safe and bio-secure grains for global markets and bioprocess industries.
NC-213 research is conducted by representatives from universities including: University of Illinois, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, University of Kentucky, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, The Ohio State University, North Dakota State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, Washington State University and The University of Wisconsin. Research is also conducted by USDA, ARS laboratories including the Grain Marketing and Production Research Center.
NC-213 has a very strong industry influence with annual meetings regularly attended by representatives from grain handling, marketing and processing companies, allied service suppliers and equipment manufacturers. In addition, an Industry Advisory Board provides NC-213 researchers with input on issues influencing global grain industries and helps to identify market-based research needs.
Areas of research
NC-213 engineers, entomologists, plant pathologists, grain/food scientists and economists investigate grain quality issues such as corn breakage and stress cracking, development of instruments to measure grain quality attributes and development of sensors to monitor grain quality.
Other topics include: developing technologies and practices to protect grain from insect and fungal pests; processing practices to ensure the quality and safety of various food, energy and biobased products; and quality management and assurance systems for identity preservation/traceability. A relatively new area of research is the emerging biofuels and bioproducts industries and associated yield and quality issues.
Making an impact
NC-213 researchers have made impacts such as:
1. Development of a single NIRS instrument calibration for the various forms of soy meal products being received by mills. This advancement creates uniformity and reduces analytical support costs at the same time. A multilocation milling company is now monitoring all inbound soybean meal based on the new calibration.
2. Designing and building a low-cost sorting device for wheat using a standard personal computer and color camera. At a wheat throughput of 3.5 kg/hour, the sorter separates wheat with an accuracy of 15% to 20% higher than what can be achieved with traditional sorters. Four wheat breeders in the United States have already adopted this system as their tool of choice for separating red and white wheat.
3. NC-213 scientists modified a common laboratory roller mill system to effectively detect hidden insect infestations in wheat kernels at low cost based on the kernel electrical properties. This technology should help grain handlers and millers detect grain that is infested and take action before the insect population increases and damages more grain and is currently being transferred to a major food processor in the United States.