State Grain Lab Adds New Federal Certification


HELENA, Mont. —The Montana State Grain Laboratory has earned a new official authorization for certificates provided to grain producers and buyers seeking to market baking-quality wheat.


An official from the Portland office of the USDA Federal Grain Inspection Service recently toured the lab and administered a test to complete a six-month process designating the State Grain Lab as a federally authorized "falling numbers" facility, said lab manager and Bureau Chief Jeff Rumney.


The falling numbers test determines baking quality by measuring amylase enzyme activity, which leads to starch degradation during baking. The longer it takes for a rod to fall through a precisely heated mixture of ground wheat and water, the more desirable the wheat is for baking, according to the Northern Crops Institute. Rain on wheat ready to harvest can trigger the enzyme activity.


The State Grain Lab has offered the test for more than 20 years under a state certificate. Customers urged the lab to become federally certified for falling numbers to provide the highest possible standards and to align the lab with tests often required when the grain is shipped overseas, Rumney said.


Some insurers also will accept the test if grain is rejected food uses due to low falling numbers.


During the six month process, test results at the Great Falls lab matched samples sent to a federal lab in Kansas City by within 1.4 points out of a standard result of 300 points or more, which is in line with USDA-FGIS standards, Rumney said.


Growers and merchants who order tests from the State Grain Lab will now be able to print federally authorized certificates online that contain falling numbers along with grade and protein test results. The certification also means that all three measures can be appealed to the FGIS Board of Appeals and Review in Kansas City.


The cost of the falling numbers test has not changed.


"Growers know that end users increasingly request the test to determine baking quality. Getting a federally certified result should provide growers with assurance that they are getting a fair price for their crop," said Rumney.


After rain delayed the 2010 harvest in parts of Montana, the State Grain Lab performed 15,000 falling numbers determinations. The average prior to that time had been about 2,500 falling numbers tests per year.


The lab purchased new equipment and took advantage of a remodeling effort for energy efficiency to realign the work area and add a high-grade water system to assure the highest accuracy, efficiency and safety of the work area, Rumney said.


For more information about the test or the State Grain Lab, contact Jeff Rumney at (406) 452-9561 or by email at


Published: July 1, 2011 4:35:00 PM MDT.
Last Modified: February 2, 2012 8:44:13 AM MST