The Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) in the UK is reminding tillage farmers that, with harvest getting underway across the country, now is the time to remember the value of grain sampling.

“For growers, sampling can sometimes seem like an extra job when things are already busy on farm. So, it is important to remember why you are sampling and how to do it effectively, this will give the reliable information to store and market grain. Accurate sampling tells you about the quality and condition of grain. It is important at each stage of the supply chain because it can help reduce waste and ensure grain goes to the most appropriate end uses,” a spokesperson said.

“Measuring key quality characteristics such as Hagberg Falling Number, nitrogen content and specific weight have been standard requirements for many years but recently, other challenges including mycotoxins have emerged. This serves to underpin the need to continually demonstrate due diligence.”

They went on to say that, for growers, keeping an eye on the quality coming off the combine is second nature but sampling in store and at dispatch allows producers to know more about the crop so it can be stored, sold and processed as efficiently as possible.

“Grain is a variable commodity; the sources of variation are numerous including where it is grown, when it is harvested and how it is handled on farm. The aim of sampling on farm is to give a representative picture of a specific lot of grain such as a 30 tonne lorry or 100 tonne grain bin.

“A sampling programme needs to take a number of small incremental samples from across the lot. This reduces variability and gives a more representative picture of the grain. The more samples taken, the closer the average will be to accurately reflecting any quality characteristic.

“To make a representative sample, a number of small incremental samples are taken from different points in the lot of grain. These incremental samples are thoroughly mixed together to form an aggregate sample.

“The final representative sample is taken from the aggregate sample. Typically, two 1kg representative samples are taken from the aggregate sample; one is sent for analysis while the other is kept on farm as a record and a back-up. The flow chart below outlines this process. When following this method, the aggregate sample will usually weigh more than 2kg. Once you have all the representative samples you need, return the rest of the grain to the load.”