Standard samples as a grain grading tool

Standard samples

Standard samples are tools used when grain is being graded visually. Experts at the Canadian Grain Commission create standard samples as needed each year, and distribute them to the grain industry for use by grain company employees and grain inspectors. Standard samples are used for accurate and consistent visual grading.

Standard samples can be made for a number of grains, but are most often used when grading wheat, peas and beans. Standard samples represent specific grading factors that are influenced by environmental growing conditions and are assessed visually. A grading factor is a physical condition of grain that can be the result of growing conditions, handling procedures or storage practices.

Degree of soundness

The overall visual quality of a sample of grain is called the degree of soundness. The Official Grain Grading Guide defines the degree of soundness for different grades of grain. Standard samples are made as a visual definition of the degree of soundness needed to meet a specific grade of grain. Grain inspectors use them as grading tools when assessing the visual grading factors that determine degree of soundness. These grading factors include mildew, frost or heat stress, and green or immature.

Grain inspectors may interpret the definition of soundness differently. When inspectors aren’t sure about the degree of soundness of a sample of grain, they can compare the sample to a standard sample.

Example of degree of soundness

This table from the Official Grain Grading Guide shows the definition of degree of soundness for different grades of Canada Western Red Spring wheat.

Degree of soundness in Wheat, Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS)
Grade name Degree of soundness
No. 1 CWRS Reasonably well matured, reasonably free from damaged kernels
No. 2 CWRS Fairly well matured, may be moderately bleached or frost-damaged, reasonably free from severely damaged kernels
No. 3 CWRS May be frost-damaged, immature or weather-damaged, moderately free from other severely damaged kernels

How standard samples are made

Experts from the Canadian Grain Commission make standard samples as needed each year. New standard samples are made to reflect the concerns of the crop year while maintaining the overall quality of the grain. If last year’s standard sample still accurately reflects the degree of soundness for a specific grade of grain, it can be used again for the current crop year.

Weather conditions at harvest vary from one year to the next. As a result, the main quality factors affecting the degree of soundness may change, too. For example, frost at harvest can result in frost damage in grain while wet weather can result in mildew. Standard samples are adjusted to reflect these changes.

The following process is used to make standard samples each year.

Inspection of grain samples

Grain companies and producers send grain samples to the Canadian Grain Commission at the beginning of the crop year. Experts at the Canadian Grain Commission examine these samples to understand what the main visual grading factor is and to determine the overall quality of the crop. They also conduct end-use quality studies to understand the processing quality of the grain samples.

Selection of material for standard samples

Based on their findings, material is selected from the grain samples to create standard samples. The Canadian Grain Commission creates samples for each grade of grain necessary.

Review of standard samples

Western and Eastern standards committees review the standard samples. The committees make sure the standard samples are relevant to all sectors of Canada’s grain industry.

Recommendation and distribution of standard samples

The committees recommend the samples for use. The recommended samples are distributed to the grain industry for grain company employees and inspectors to use as grading tools.

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