With farmers trying to get into fields as early as possible, elevator managers will be paying close attention to moisture content.
Farmers with their own moisture meters may find their results don't sync up with the elevator. Roger VanderKolk, product manager with DICKEY-john, says a recent change in the federal standard for moisture testing has the potential to create even more disparity.
For more than 15 years, the USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration maintained an NTEP-approved list of moisture meters. This means all meters certified under the NTEP program are required to meet rigid performance standards prior to use in the commercial grain trade markets.
GIPSA's official Federal Standard of moisture tester was selected from the list of NTEP-approved meters. Until last year, DICKEY-john's GAC2100 was the only Federal Standard moisture meter approved by GIPSA.
Before 2012, VanderKolk notes any grain approved for export outside of the U.S. was sampled and moisture tested on a GAC2100.
"The GAC2100 has served the industry well for the past 15 years," he says. "But, the technology was beginning to get a bit dated."
A new standard
Last year, GIPSA anointed a new Federal Standard for grain testing. It's called UGMA, or Unified Grain Moisture Algorithm.
Rather than approving a single device as the Federal Standard, GIPSA approved the UGMA technology as the standard. This means different brands of moisture testers can be utilized in official capacities -- provided they meet both UGMA and NTEP standards.
VanderKolk notes the UGMA standards went into place for corn, soybean, sunflower and sorghum on Sept. 10, 2012. UGMA standards went into place for the remaining grains on May 1.
In terms of basic operation, UGMA technology is very similar to how the GAC2100 works. Grain is placed in a measuring cell. An electronic current is applied. Since the capacitance of the cell is known, moisture can be calculated when the electric current is measured after it passes through the grain, VanderKolk explains. At 149 mHz, UGMA utilizes a higher frequency for performing this test.
So, are the results the same? Not always, VanderKolk says.
When grain is extremely wet or dry, the two technologies can register some significant differences, he explains. In some cases, DICKEY-john noted differences of 8 tenths of a percent of moisture last year.
If the local elevator uses the same moisture testing technology as their farmer customer, it's business as usual. If not, there's a potential for disagreement.
Jeff Adkisson, executive vice president of the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois, says there were reports of discrepancies last winter into early spring. Moisture incongruities are something the grain industry is used too though, says Adkisson.
"The industry has had to deal with differences over the years because of the different manufacturers and technologies associated with moisture testing, so elevators have become good at working through these problems," he adds.
Despite the differences, Adkisson says the industry as a whole is embracing UGMA technology. According to Adkisson, the new technology creates a more consistent platform for testing grain moisture.
To minimize moisture-test disagreements, VanderKolk recommends farmers understand what technology is being utilized at the local elevator. If the technologies match, discrepancies should be minimized.