Corn Harvest Quality Report 2017/2018

Whole Kernels

Though the name suggests some inverse relationship between whole kernels and BCFM, the whole kernels test conveys different information than the broken corn portion of the BCFM test. Broken corn is defined solely by the size of the material. Whole kernels, as the name implies, is the percent of fully intact kernels in the sample with no pericarp damage or kernel pieces chipped away.

The exterior integrity of the corn kernel is very important for two key reasons. First, it affects water absorption for alkaline cooking and steeping operations. Kernel nicks or pericarp cracks allow water to enter the kernel faster than intact or whole kernels. Too much water uptake during cooking can result in loss of solubles, non-uniform cooking, expensive shutdown time, and/or products that do not meet specifications. Some companies pay contracted premiums for corn delivered above a specified level of whole kernels.

Second, intact whole kernels are less susceptible to storage molds and breakage in handling. While hard endosperm lends itself to preservation of more whole kernels than soft corn, the primary factor in delivering whole kernels is harvesting and handling. This begins with proper combine adjustment followed by the severity of kernel impacts due to conveyors and number of handlings required from the farm field to the end user. Each subsequent handling will generate additional breakage. Harvesting at higher moisture contents (e.g., greater than 25%) will usually lead to more pericarp damage to corn than harvesting at lower moisture levels.


U.S. Aggregate whole kernels averaged 95.2% in 2016, higher than 2015 (94.9%), 2014 (93.6%), and 5YA (93.8%).

The whole kernel standard deviation (2.7%) was the same as 2015, but lower than 2014 (3.5%) and 5YA (3.4%).

Whole kernel range in 2016 (19.4%) was lower than 2015 (21.4%) and 2014 (36.2%).

Of the 2016 samples, 93.9% had 90% or higher whole kernels, compared to 2015 (94%) and 2014 (86%). This distribution indicates both 2016 and 2015 had a higher percentage of whole kernels in the samples than in 2014.

Whole kernel averages for Gulf, Pacific Northwest, and Southern Rail ECAs were 95.0%, 95.7%, and 95.1%, respectively.