School may be out for Summer but the Testing Lab is In Session!

NWCS staffer Erica Cummings with Falling Number machine in UVM Extension Cereal Grains Testing Lab.
NWCS staffer Erica Cummings with Falling Number machine in UVM Extension Cereal Grains Testing Lab.

The University of Vermont Extension Cereal Grain Quality Testing Laboratory is run by our NWCS team. Since it opened in 2011, we have tested hundreds of grain and hop samples from our research plots as well as commercial samples from farmers throughout the region.

The lab is now back open for the season and ready for business! Here are the tests offered by our lab for grain samples:

Test Weight: Test weight is a measure of the density or weight recorded in pounds per bushel of a grain at a standardized moisture level. It is a general indicator of grain quality; higher test weight generally means higher quality grain.

Grain Moisture: Determining moisture content is an essential step in analyzing flour quality since this data is used for other tests, namely falling number and protein, and is an indicator of grain storability. Whole grains and flour with high moisture content (greater than 14.5%) attract mold, bacteria, and insects, all of which cause deterioration during storage.

Whole Grain Protein: The lab is equipped with near-infrared technology (NIR) for protein analysis. Protein content is often a key specification for wheat and flour buyers as it can affect flour processing properties like water absorption, gluten strength, texture, and appearance. In general, higher protein indicates higher quality wheat.

Falling Number: The lab houses a sophisticated machine to test the Falling Number of wheat, an internationally standardized method for sprout damage detection. The Falling Number system measures the alpha-amylase enzyme activity in grains and flour to detect sprout damage and is crucial for final product quality of bread, pasta, noodles and malt. The falling number is measured by the amount of time, in seconds, it takes for a plunger to fall through a slurry of flour and water to the bottom of the sample tube. In general, a falling number of 350 seconds or longer indicates low enzyme activity and sound wheat. Falling numbers below 200 seconds indicate high levels of enzyme activity and much sprouting damage.

Seed Germination: New in 2015, the lab is offering germ tests of grains, particularly helpful for seed that is not certified or that is carried over from a previous year.

Corn Analysis: Our lab is able to provide analyses of corn samples. Results include % moisture, % crude protein, % crude fiber, and % starch.

Vomitoxin “DON”: We can test for deoxynivalenol (DON) also known as vomitoxin. Contamination of wheat with DON is directly related to the incidence of Fusarium head blight and strongly associated with relative moisture and timing of rainfall at flowering. The results are expressed in parts per million (ppm). Occurrences of vomitoxin in wheat at or above 1 ppm are considered unsafe for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has also established DON advisory levels to provide safe livestock feeds – a 10 ppm level is set for grains destined for cattle older than 4 months and for poultry (provided it does not exceed 50% of the diet); and a 5 ppm level is set for grains destined for swine (not to exceed 20% of the diet) and other animals (not to exceed 40% of the diet).

If you are interested in submitting samples to the lab for testing, please keep the following in mind:

  • Submit 1 quart of clean and dry (<14% Moisture) whole grain (do not send flour) for each sample submitted. Grain samples with stones and dirt will NOT be accepted. Remember, your results will only be as good as the sample submitted. Payment MUST be included with samples. Please clearly label each sample.
  • A sample submission form MUST be included for EACH sample–we cannot accept samples with no or incomplete forms.
  • Payment MUST accompany the samples to be analyzed. Samples with no payment included will not be accepted.

For more information about the testing lab and to download submission form(s), visit our website at: and/or send us an email at:

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