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Sorgonomics™ Sorghum Odor: A Costly Issue

By JoAnna Elliott A

ll sorghum has a natural odor. However, sorghum does not smell the same at harvest as it does af- ter being stored. To ensure that exported sorghum

maintains a certain standard, the Federal Grain Inspection Service inspects the sorghum and grades it based on the in- spector’s sense of the odor. Sorghum odors are graded on a scale of OK, musty or sour. The profi t of producers and el- evators and their ability to sell their grain is a direct result of their given grade.

Inconsistent odor grad-

ing is negatively aff ecting sorghum producers’ prof- its. The inconsistencies are causing extreme, yet preventable, losses to the industry and decreasing stability and further expansion of international trade opportunities.

Nick Pinkston of Sinton, Texas, grows grain sorghum north of Corpus Christi. Pinkston has had several trucks rejected, costing him profi t on the grain, plus freight to the port and back.

“We went straight from the fi eld to the port with several trucks, and our sorghum was rejected for being musty and

sour,” Pinkston said. “We did not stop at an elevator, our grain had not been stored, and it was graded as musty.”

When sorghum is graded

“We did not stop at an elevator, our grain had not been stored, and it was graded as musty.”

A need for a standard

Many in the industry believe FGIS’s interpretation of the sorghum odor line is too restrictive and is causing uncer- tainty in the marketplace while costing producers money.

Currently, there are no physical reference standards for de- termining sorghum odor during the grading process, mak- ing it diffi cult to train graders to recognize certain odors. There is a great need for a standardized sor- ghum odor program that works for end-users, elevators and producers. Because the grading is completely based on sense of smell, grading results have varied tremendously.

For example, at the Port of Corpus Christi all incoming loads of grain are graded by a pri- vate inspection laboratory. All shipments be- ing loaded onto boats are then graded by FGIS inspectors. The two diff erent inspection agen- cies were grading the sorghum diff erently, and the inconsistencies were costing produc- ers and elevators as a result.

Sorghum odor grading inconsistencies have been costly for many producers in Texas and across the Sorghum Belt.


Oftentimes, storage odor has been incorrectly determined as a musty odor. There have been instances where odor determinations be- tween origin and destination have changed, and it is unlikely the quality changed while

SORGHUM Grower Winter 2011

The grain is graded upon reaching export. Normally, the sorghum is harvested from the fi eld, taken to the eleva- tor for storage and transported to the port. At each tran- sition, the sorghum is susceptible to many diff erent vari- ables, which may alter its odor far past the control of the producer.

FGIS has an impressive 96 percent consistency rate

between certifi ed labs. However, many believe FGIS is con- sistently grading good grain as musty.

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