The value of ensuring wheat quality control was underscored a year ago when complaints about weak dough strength came to light, despite Western Canada’s rigorous variety registration system.
International customers are less concerned about the dough strength of 2013 crop, but still concerned nonetheless, Dave Hatcher, a research scientist with the Canadian Grain commission’s Grain research Laboratory said in an interview after speaking to the prairie Grain Development committee Feb. 25 in Winnipeg.
“2012, from a customer point of view, they were very unhappy,” he said. “It came as a bit of a shock them too.”
Researchers believe the problem resulted from a combination of factors. One was poor weather. The other was a big jump in popularity among farmers and therefore production of several Canada Western red spring wheats with dough strength on the edge of what’s acceptable.
“That’s why we need to make certain we have the right targets in our quality objectives to ensure that we can minimize that in the future,” Hatcher said.
Canada is famous for producing high-quality milling wheat, but it’s the consistency of that wheat that’s also a huge selling point. Millers and bakers count on Canadian wheat and flour, milling and baking much the same way shipment to shipment, year after year.
Some of that consistency came through the mixing that occurred through the old elevator system, but there are fewer elevators now and more direct hits to ships.
To better ensure the dough strength of future Canadian wheats meets customer needs the extensograph test is being brought back, said Graham Worden, chair of the prairie recommending committee’s end-use quality team. The test was dropped a few years ago to save money. Several other tests were also dropped this year to streamline the assessment process.
“We have been challenged with dough strength as an issue,” Worden said. “We haven’t been able to discriminate as well as we should be able to. This is the return of a method that used to be done that we feel quite strongly that this is going to be useful.”
Canadian wheat customers know about its wheat registration and quality control system and they don’t want it undermined, Hatcher said.
“That message came personally to me from the customers loud and clear,” he said.
“They saw such difficulties for them coming out of the change to the Australian Wheat Board that they’re very concerned about the changes here.
“They will tell you up front that consistency is probably the biggest asset they’re looking for.
“When you’re doing a big huge lot, you can’t afford not to have consistency.”