Depending on whom you ask, most people will say that grain quality reaches its peak at harvest.
Indeed, once it leaves the farm, the primary driver of grain quality evolves from its initial function of producing a quality crop to one of grain quality preservation.
While the role played by elevator operators and those who handle grain as it enters the marketing channel is vital to overall grain quality, the upfront work done by grain producers themselves has added a much-needed boost to reshaping our grain quality reputation.
“Certainly biotechnology coupled with innovative plant breeding strategies, cutting-edge precision crop protection and harvesting equipment, and advances in storage technologies have allowed producers to bring a higher quality crop to market,” says Tom Shanower, director, USDA Grain Marketing and Production Research Center (GMPRC), Manhattan, KS. “Truly, the producer has many tools at their disposal that directly affect grain quality.”
Loading the Toolbox
Of all the tools grain producers and handlers have at their disposal to promote grain quality, probably the one having the most potential influence is the Internet.
With the click and drag of a computer mouse, producers, farm managers and agronomists have millions of bytes worth of information at their disposal from a seemingly endless supply of sources.
For example, the Iowa State University Agronomy Extension department features 14 program links on their website’s navigation bar. Clicking on the “soil fertility” link reveals an additional 12 links containing information on all things fertility-related from lime and soil pH to soil test interpretations and recommendations. All this from just one link from just one resource!
Nearly every Land Grant University or Extension service has a website or a comprehensive roster of links which house volumes of information from both the latest research and product development, and the stores of historical data that predates the Internet era. Basically, if it’s ever been written about, researched or made available in a printed format, it’s likely to be found somewhere online.
“Access to information on quality grain management has helped build awareness and promote new concepts and standards for grain quality,” says Dirk Maier, department head of Grain Science and Industry Dept. at Kansas State University. “It also alerts producers and handlers alike of new educational opportunities such as webinars, distance learning programs and other Web-based teaching tools.
“The key is to keep these tools accessible and populate them with robust information that brings tangible benefits to the end users,” Maier notes. “In addition, our industry must continue to support the research necessary to keep this information pipeline flowing.”
‘First the Seed’
You can’t really discuss grain quality in today’s terms, without first giving a tip of the cap in appreciation for the work done in the area of seed technology.
Advances in seed technology — thanks in large part to biotechnology — is regarded by many as the single most important contributing factor to enhancing grain quality in the United States.
“In many cases, improvements or enhancements to initial grain quality can be directly attributed to advanced seed technologies,” says Gretchen Flanley, vice-president communications, American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). “Seed research and product development has yielded agronomic packages that deliver a host of benefits for producers and end-use customers alike.”
“Additionally, advanced technologies also deliver tangible benefits in reducing overall production costs and reducing the environmental footprint of those who adopt these seed technologies,” reminds Flanley.
With record demand for nearly every type of grain crop threatening to bring carryover stocks to all-time lows, the world looks to its farmers to deliver much needed grain to a hungry planet.