Among the announcements at this year’s Grain Network Meeting in Reims France, was the news that the ring test used to check the reliability of near infrared (NIR) measurements of grain now includes 37 laboratories from six continents.
It is one of those seemingly minor developments that can easily be overlooked, but is actually worthy of more attention as an indication of the continuing international and cross-industry drive to improve global grain quality.
The purpose of ring test is to compare test results obtained using the widely-used grain calibration for FOSS Infratec NIR grain analysers with test results from various reference laboratories.
Handling global variations in grain samples
Amongst other things, the test helps to check that the calibration accommodates the typical seasonal variations that occur with grain samples across different geographic regions and from harvest-to-harvest. These variations can be handled because the calibration uses a so-called artificial neural network (ANN) approach. The ANN calibration is based on data from over 50,000 grain samples acquired by FOSS over many years of work in the global grain sector.
The ring test was set up in 2007 as a natural development of periodic studies with reference laboratories. Originally there were 19 participating laboratories around Europe. Now it involves 37 laboratories from Europe, North and South America, South Africa, Oceania and Asia with China, Malaysia, Russia and Argentina participating for the first time.
The scope of the ring test has also been expanded. As well as the original tests on wheat and barley for protein and moisture, it now includes rapeseed for oil and moisture.
Grain on target: factors such as standardised instruments, stable calibrations, instrument networks and approvals and ring-test all make important contributions to the accuracy of grain testing today
Stable results with NIR
The results from the successive ring tests show that the FOSS Artificial Neural Network (ANN) calibration is very stable for protein and moisture in wheat and barley against reference methods. Good performance with the rapeseed prediction models is also seen especially in terms of reproducibility which is slightly better than the reference method.
Speaking at the Grain Network Meeting, FOSS Chemometrician, Tomas Nilsson showed results indicating yet another year of excellent stability and performance with the ANN calibration. He said: “This international ring test is essential to validate against ISO standards and to avoid drifting with the calibration model. It is also important in monitoring reference methods, local prediction models, the instruments and the reproducibility of the FOSS ANN prediction models.”
Reims, the location for this year’s grain network meeting
Layers of quality assurance
Listening to other presentations at the meeting, it soon becomes apparent that the ring test is just the outer layer of the onion that is grain testing today. It is much, much more than a single NIR instrument, but a combination of factors which are teaming up to get grain quality on target.
At the centre of it all are factory standardised instruments ensuring consistent measurements across instruments as explained in this article from an earlier edition of In Focus, (All measuring the same. See link below). On top of this comes a reliable and highly stable calibration, (the ANN calibration referred to above). Then there is instrument networking capability which allows instruments to be connected into networks and monitored for consistent performance and updated simultaneously with calibration updates. A recent example of networking in action is the new network that has been set up in Russia. See page 8 for the full story about how the network has already done much to align measurements of protein across trading companies and regions.
Keeping everything in line are the instrument approval tests from national authorities such as NTEP, and not least, cross industry initiatives such as the now global, FOSS grain ring test.