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USDA and ISU Agree to Combine Grain Quality Databases


Charles Hurburgh, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, (515) 294-8629
David Funk, USDA-GIPSA, (816) 891-0430
Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0706


AMES, Iowa -- The USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) and Iowa State University have agreed to merge their corn and soybean databases for determining grain quality traits.

The combined database, which contain information from thousands of corn and soybean samples, will be "the best in the world," said Charles Hurburgh, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and director of ISU's Grain Quality Laboratory.

GIPSA administrator James R. Baker said, "The merger will produce extensive databases that are geographically and genetically more diverse than either organization could generate acting independently."

GIPSA and ISU's Grain Quality Laboratory have used the databases to calibrate Infratec near-infrared transmittance analyzers. The Infratec is the instrument used in official grain inspections for measuring protein, oil and starch in corn and protein and oil in soybeans. The calibrations are essentially the software for accurate operation of the equipment.

ISU has been licensing its calibrations to grain elevators and other firms that want to measure specialty grain traits. As part of the agreement, ISU will end its licensing efforts for Infratec calibrations in favor of this more encompassing national effort, Hurburgh said.

GIPSA will use the combined databases to improve official NIR calibrations. GIPSA retains exclusive responsibility for official calibration equations and procedures for official use.

Producers and grain handlers will benefit from the combined databases, said Hurburgh. "The new system will eliminate any confusion and potential duplication of results, while improving the accuracy of measurements," he said. "Everyone recognizes USDA as the standard, and with the addition of ISU's database, the standard is unified and strengthened."

The agreement is important, Hurburgh said, because the next wave of biotechnology developments will include crops with direct consumer benefits. These new grains may have improved nutritional or health-promoting qualities. "Accurate instrumentation will be essential to ensure the grain meets quality standards and contains the traits they were designed for," he said.

ISU and GIPSA will collaborate on research to improve the accuracy of calibrations using the combined databases. ISU also will share information from its instrumentation testing program with GIPSA to help the agency keep abreast of new technologies.

ISU has worked for more than a dozen years to develop standardized, uniform tests to measure grain quality traits. The work fits into the value-added agriculture movement, which seeks to boost farmers' returns by treating grain less as a commodity and more as raw materials with specific traits tailored for processors.

Part of GIPSA's mission is to provide the U.S. grain market with federal quality standards and a uniform system for applying them. GIPSA is an unbiased, third-party entity that helps ensure a fair, competitive marketing system for all involved in the merchandising of grain and related products.