Helping the Grain Processing Industry Maintain Quality Control (Iowa Grain Quality Initiative)

Name/Title:  
Connie Hardy, Program Specialist

Department: 
Value Added Agriculture Program

Date Submitted: 
2011

Supports Plan of Work Number: 
106  Crop processing, quality and distribution

Title of Success Story: 
Helping the Grain Processing Industry Maintain Quality Control (Iowa Grain Quality Initiative)

Situation:
As processing plants modify processes with microwave drying, fractionation, super-critical fluid oil extraction, etc., the resulting co-products need to be characterized and routinely analyzed for nutrients. The Value Added Agriculture Program (VAAP) has worked with the ISU Grain Quality Lab to develop near-infrared (NIR) grain analyzer calibrations for nutritional factors in corn, soybeans, distillers grains, and soybean meal for industry users. In 2009-2010, VAAP offered measurement services to the corn and soybean processing industry. The ability to rapidly measure nutrients in these feed ingredients gives producers and users a better understanding of the character and consistency of the materials, leading to more efficient uses and higher levels of trust in trade.  The developmental aspects contribute to data and publications that can be shared within the grain industry.  Support from the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative has been critical to improvements in measurement systems and training of industry personnel.

Project Objectives:

  1. Provide accurate calibrations for users of near infrared analyzers used in grain handling and processing companies.
  2. Enable grain handling and processing companies that use near infrared analyzers to accurately calibrate them so the company can accurately predict nutrient levels within acceptable limits.
  3. Increase user skill to update calibrations of near infrared analyzers through instrument operation, sample collection, and calibration development.
  4. Increase the ability of companies to cut costs and use time and inventory more efficiently by integrating quality measurement protocol into the overall quality management system.

Activities/Output:
Product specific calibrations were created and validated (meaning that they can accurately predict nutrient levels within acceptable limits) for seven Midwest companies and research institutes, and two analyzer manufacturers that sell to Midwestern companies. For each product, four to six nutrients/parameters would be measured, such as moisture, protein, fat, starch, and density in whole corn.  In the course of calibration development, the ISU Grain Quality Lab has trained as many as 5 technicians within a company to maintain and update calibrations to maintain accuracy.

Results of an ongoing study to develop organic corn lines that yield high levels of methionine, lysine, and cysteine for the US organic poultry industry have been reported at the International Diffuse Reflectance Conference in Chambersburg, PA and at the American Association of Cereal Chemists Annual Meeting. The results may have significance for nutrition-packed corn lines for human food in Africa. The entire project is described on the www.agmrc.org, the website for the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.

Outcome Statement:   
Grain handling and processing industries now have accurate NIR calibrations for routine measurements of nutrients in grains and grain products used in feed, food, and fuel through the efforts by the ISU Grain Quality Lab and Value Added Agriculture Program.  Time and money commonly spent for traditional chemistry analysis are saved through the ability to rapidly analyze nutrients in inbound ingredients, as well as in processed and finished products. 

The ISU Grain Quality Lab has developed and tested calibrations on NIR analyzers that are still under development. Results of these tests are confidential, but they are intended to improve instrumentation for harvest and processing applications for instrument manufacturers. Results of these tests are confidential, but they are intended to improve instrumentation for harvest and processing applications Technical staff at each company have learned how to better use the analyzers and to integrate the data into their own quality control protocol, skills that are seldom taught by manufacturers’ representatives.  Some companies have documented significant cost savings thanks to their ability to measure inbound materials. Trade of agricultural products has been facilitated. These grain quality projects contribute to increased accurate measurement capabilities for companies dealing with grains and grain-based food, feed, and fuel products.

2011

106  Crop processing, quality and distribution

 

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