Grain quality

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In agriculture, grain quality depends on the use of the grain. In ethanol production, the chemical composition of grain such as starch contents is important, in food and feed manufacturing, properties such as protein, oil and sugar are significant, in milling industry soundness is the most important factor to consider and for seed producer, the high germination percentage (viability of seed) and seed dormancy is the important feature to consider, for consumers the properties like color and flavor will be important.

Properties of grain quality[edit]

Overall quality of grain is affected by several factors includes, growing practices, time and type of harvesting, postharvest handling, storage management and transportation practices.[1] The properties of grain quality can be summarized into ten main factors (i) Uniform moisture contents, (ii) High test weight, (iii) No foreign material, (iv) Low percentage of discolored, broken and damaged kernels, (v) Low breakability, (vi) High milling quality, (vii) High protein and oil content, (viii) High viability, (ix) No afaltoxin (mycotoxin), and (x) No presence of insects and molds.

Characteristics of grain quality[edit]

Grain quality is characterized into two main factors (i) intrinsic factors, and (ii) extrinsic factors. The intrinsic factors of grain includes, color, composition, bulk density, odor, aroma, size and shape.

Color is an important primary factor for characterization and grading, trade, and processing of grain. It is a common criterion used in wheat trade.

The main compositions of grain are carbohydrates (energy), protein, lipids, mineral, fiber, phytic acid, and tannins. It varies significant depends on the type of grain, genetics, varieties, agricultural practice, and handling of the grain. Grain composition plays a significant role in grading and marketing of grains.

Bulk density is defined as the ratio of the mass to a given volume of a grain sample including the interstitial voids between the particles.

Size and shape are important factors in grain quality and grading; it varies between grain to grain and between varieties of the same species. It is commonly used in rice grading and key factors in milling industry.

The extrinsic factors include: age, broken grain, immature grain, foreign matter, infected grain and moisture content.

Grain quality grade and specification[edit]

Grain grading and specification system assures that a particular lot of grain meets the required set standards customer. In many countries grading of grain depends on four main properties; (i) bushel (test) weight (ii) moisture contents (iii) broken foreign material or the percentage fragments example broken corn foreign materials (iv) damaged kernels (i.e. total and heat damaged).

Test weight[edit]

Test (bushel) weight also known as volumetric weight is one of the simplest and traditional criteria used to determine quality of grain and measure of grain bulk density. It is an indicator of general grain quality and primary grain specification, normally the higher the test weight the higher the quality, and the lower the test weight the lower the quality, and grain quality decreases dramatically as grain deteriorates.[2] Test weight of grain is affected by many factors including moisture contents (initial and final), frost damage, and maturity, growing and harvesting conditions, drying conditions, fine material, and degree of kernel damaged, and variety.[3]

Moisture contents[edit]

The moisture content is one among important factors in grains quality. It denotes as the quality of water per unit mass of grain and expressed on a percentage basis (i.e. wet basis or dry basis). Moisture content does not directly affect grain quality but can indirectly affect quality since grain will spoil at moisture contents above that recommended for storage

Foreign material (FM)[edit]

Broken foreign material is an important factor in grading and classification of grains. It is described as foreign material other than grains such as sands, pieces of rocks, plastics particles, metals and pieces of glass, contaminating a particular lot of grain. In the grains trade presences of more than set percentage of FM results either low grades, price discount or lot rejection, because the higher the FM the more the cost to clean before uses.

Damaged kernel (DK)[edit]

Damaged kernels constitute an important grading factor. DK are considered those that have an evident visual damaged and negatively affect their value of the grains. It is usually quantified by removing damaged kernels by hand from potions free of impurities. Grain grades contain a limit of damage kernels for each grade, for instance for wheat to be grade one must contain no more than 0.4% of the total weight. Main types of damaged are due to insects, heat, molds, and weathering, sprouted, frost, diseases, non-uniform maturity and lack of/partial grain filling.

In the grading systems or specification damaged kernels is divided into two main parts (i) heat damaged and (ii) total damaged.

Non-grain-standards properties[edit]

Important non-grain standards in U.S. grain standards includes (i) breakage susceptibility, (ii) milling quality (iii) seed viability, (iv) nutritive value, (v) mold count and carcinogen content, and (vi) insect infestation and damage [1]

Best example of grain quality can be described into two common grains (wheat and rice).


Wheat grain (Triticum aestivum L.) is the world's leading agricultural source of energy, protein and fiber; it belongs to a family Graminaea and genus Triticum and can be categorized into three main classes - hard, soft and durum. Wheat quality can best be described in terms of end-user, nutritional quality, milling, and baking and rheology quality. In general wheat needs to be sound, clean, well mature, free from foreign material and damaged.[4]

Wheat quality[edit]

In general wheat quality can be divided into three main groups (i) botanical (species and varieties), (ii) physical (iii) and chemical characteristics.

Botanical Criteria of Quality In botanical terms, wheat quality can be described as falling into the following two main criteria (i) species and (ii) varieties.

Physical criteria[edit]

Physical characteristics of wheat quality includes, grain weight, hardness, grain size and shape, vitreousness and color.

Physical properties of grain such as wheat play a very important role in the quality of the grain, and in final products such as flour. Main physical properties that influence quality of wheat are test weight, hardness, grain size and shape, vitreousness and color.

Test weight[edit]

Test weight of wheat is considered the most common and easiest way to quantify wheat. It is an important quality factor in wheat grading as it gives rough estimates of flour yields. The basic factors that affect the test weight of wheat are kernel size and shape, kernel density, maturity of wheat, anseases and actual wheat variety.[5]


The hardness of wheat endosperm is critical in determining the suitability of wheat for various end products and influences the processing and milling of wheat. It is the common characteristic used by millers and trader to classify wheat. In term of hardness wheat can be classified as either hard or soft.[6]


In terms of color, wheat is classified into two classes (i.e. red wheat and white wheat), hard red winter wheat is considered superior and commonly used for bread flour production, while white wheat are usually used for cake, chapattis, and pasta (macaroni), each types of wheat has different properties such as taste, baking quality and milling yields.[7]


Wheat vitreousness is an optical property used by many countries to grade or quantify durum wheat. Based on vitreouness, wheat can be classified into three main classes: vitreous, mealy and piebald.[8] Vitreous wheat differs from non-vitreous by kernel appearance (starchy and opaque); vitreous wheat are considered better quality than non-vitreous kernels, because of higher quality semolina protein, nice color and uniform coarser granulation.[9]

Chemical (quality) properties of wheat[edit]

A chemical property of wheat includes moisture contents, protein (gluten) contents, amylase content and fiber contents.

Moisture contents[edit]

Wheat grain normal harvested at 10-12% moisture contents. In most countries moisture contents is not part of grading system, but is the most important factors affecting quality of wheat grain, hence is inversely related to dry matter loss.[5] Moisture contents has two significance important in wheat quality (i) too low (too dry) result wheat to break during storage and handling operation and (ii) too high will facilitate molds growth which lead to deterioration.

Protein content[edit]

Protein is not part of wheat a grading factors, but its quantity and quality are the most important properties in wheat business. Most buyers and millers need to know the amount of protein contents of wheat before buys it. Wheat contains five different classes of protein; (i) albumin (soluble in water), (ii) globulin (soluble in salt solution) (iii) gliadin (soluble in 70% aqueous ethanol) (iv) proteose and (v) glutenin (soluble in dilute acid or alkali).[10]

Other important quality of wheat are milling and baking quality

Milling quality[edit]

Most of wheat is commercially sold as milled flour or semolina, hence milling quality is a crucial factor in wheat trade. Milling depends on three main factors (i) size and evenness of kernels- there is a close correlation with the weight of grain, determined by thousand-kernel weight, (ii) texture of the endosperm- characterized by glassiness or pearling index and hardness. They influence the utilization of energy required for milling as well as the amount of semolina obtained, and (iii) percentage ratio of the seed-coat- the larger the kernel the lower the ratio of seed-coat, and if the layers are not thicker, then the percentage of the seed-coat will decreases too, and color of endosperm and seed-coat.[11]

Baking quality[edit]

Baking quality is another criterion used to determine the quality and suitability of wheat; baking quality depends on types of wheat uses and processing conditions, for instance the strong (hard) wheat are considered of the higher quality and suitable for bread making, where most of cakes made from soft wheat flour. Baking quality is determined by rheological properties of wheat flour.[12] The rheological property of wheat flour is essential because it determine other physical characteristics such as dough (baking) volume and sensory attributes.[13]

Grading and classification of wheat quality[edit]

Wheat, like other cereal, is graded based on certain criteria such as; test weight, purity, maximum percentage damaged and foreign materials.[14] In the United States, wheat is classified into classes and sub-classes. In classes, wheat is split into eight different groups; hard red spring, hard red winter, soft red winter, durum, hard white, soft white, mixed and un-classed wheat. These classes are further sub-classed into five grades (US. No.1-5)[14], with the exception of un-classed wheat.


Rice belongs to the genus Oryza of the sub-tribe Oryzinea in the family Gramineae. Three main categories of rice are, (i) long-grain- relatively long and bold types, known as Carolina rice, (ii) medium-grain-long, thin, cylindrical grain, known as Patna, and (iii) short-grain-short, stout grain, known as Spanish-Japan.

Rice grain quality[edit]

There is no proper definition or description of rice quality, because as definition of quality, depends on several factors such cooking practice and region and usages for example rice miller he/she describe rice quality in terms of total recovery and or head and broken rice kernels while food processing will define concept of rice quality in terms of grain size, aroma, appearance and cookability.

In general many countries quantify rice into four main categories (i) milling quality (ii) cooking, eating and processing quality, (iii) nutritional quality and (iv) specific standards for cleanliness, soundness and purity. In the United States three more factors has been added (i) hull and pericarp (ii) color grain size, shape, weight, uniformity and general appearance and (iii) kernel chalkiness, translucency and color [15]

Physical properties of rice[edit]

Common physical properties of rice are size, shape, color, uniformity, and general appearance. Other factors contributes to general appearance of rice are cleanliness, free from other seeds, vitreousness, translucency, chalkiness, color, damaged and imperfect kernel.

For the case of grain size, rice grain can be categories into three main groups (i) length (ii) shape and (iii) weight, the length is the measure of the rough, brown, or milled rice kernel in its highest dimension, while shape is the ratio of length, width, and thickness, and for the case of weight is determined by using 1,000-kernel weight.[16]

Example of length, shape and weight used in US grading system for brown rice kernels are shown below.[16]

Grain type Length (mm) Shape (ratio) weight (mg)
Long-grain 6.61 to 7.5 over 3 15 - 20
Medium-grain 5.51 to 6.6 2.1 to 3 17 - 24
Short-grain up to 5.5 up to 2.1 20 -24

Test weight[edit]

Test weight is another important grading factor of rice, it is related to bulk density, and used to measure the relative amount of foreign material or immature kernels, it is useful index in milling outturn. The average test weight per bushel of U.S. rough rice is 45 lb.[16]

Impurities and damaged rice[edit]

Impurities and damaged rice considered as single most important factor of rice quality because it directly related to economic value of lot, example presence of sand and stones will increase the weight of grain and damage rubber when send to the miller. Impurities and damaged rice contains dockage, damaged kernels, chalkly grains, red rice, broken seed or kernels and odors.[16]

Milling quality or outturn[edit]

The main objective of rice milling is to remove the outer layer (hull), bran and germ with minimum damage of endosperm. Milling quality of rice is another important criteria used in marketing, grading and classification of rice, as well as treatment such as conditioning, drying and parboiling, it is normally estimated by using milling yield. Milling yield varied depends on several factors such as grain types, varieties, chalkiness, drying and storing conditions, other includes environmental conditions and moisture contents at harvest

The milling quality can be determined by two common parameters (i) total yield and (ii) head yield, also another parameters like degree of milling and broken rice are used to estimate milling quality an express in percentage [15] By definition milling quality is the ability of rice kernels to stand milling and or polishing without breakage, and to yield higher amount of recovery.

Nutritional and cooking quality[edit]

The nutritional component of rice is one of the most important indicators of quality; rice is predominantly a starchy food though it also contributes useful quantities of proteins and vitamins, mineral, pentosans and fiber.[17] The chemical composition (nutrients) of rice grain varies considerably depends on factors like plant variety (breeds), environmental condition (i.e. location and season in which grown), fertilizer treatment, degree of milling, and condition of storage. The degree of milling and cooking methods loss significant quantities of nutrients, hence most of the vitamins and minerals are in the surface layers.

The cooking quality is another important criteria as far as quality of rice is concern, it is influenced by many factors such as cooking methods and time, bulk density, storage condition, varieties and cultivation methods.

The two most important physiochemical properties of cooking quality of rice are amylose content and gelatinization temperature.

Amylose content[edit]

It is another important factors in rice quality, like other cereal rice is good sources of starch especially amylose. It is composed more than 80% starch and at molecular level starch contains amylose (linear chains glucose of α (1-4) linkages) and amylopectin (branched chain glucose with α(1-6) linkage.[3] In terms of amylose rice can be classified as waxy 0-2%, very low 2-10%, low 10-20%, intermediate20-25% and high 25-32% (rice dry basis).[18] Starch content (amylose) of rice is very important factors in grain yield, processing and palatability.

Gelatinization temperature[edit]

Gelatinization temperature is related to many factors such as cooking time, granula size, molecular size of starch fraction; it is also used as criteria classified rice in some countries. Like other factors it is also influenced by environment such as ripening temperature, genetic and rice varieties as well as cooking time.[3] Gelatinization temperature is direct related to amylose contents; the higher the amylose the higher the gelatinization temperature, hence high waxy rice has higher gelatinization temperature than waxy or very low waxy rice.[19]

Classification and grading of rice[edit]

The main criteria used by many countries and millers to grade rice are degree of milling, appearance (color), damaged (broken) and percentage of chalky kernels. In the United States rice is marketed according to three main properties size, color and condition (kernels damage), these properties direct related to quality, milling percentage and other processing conditions.[6] All properties are important in grading for instance, kernels with chalky are not desirable because give lower milling yields after processing and easy break during handling.

Color and degree of milling is another criteria mostly used to grade rice. By using these criteria rice can be graded into four main classes, under-milled, lightly milled, reasonably milled and well milled. Other factors also considered in grading of rice is test weight hence has been related to milling percentage, empty kernels, immature grain and higher amount of dockage. The average test of kernel weight for rice is 56 kg/hL for long, 58.5 kg/hL for medium and 60 kg/hL for short rice.[6] Grade and requirements of rice in USA [20]


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