Weights and Measures

I was thinking about corn this morning and came to the realization that while I had the vague notion that corn commodities were measured in bushels, I hadn't thought about what that meant until I looked it up online. As it turns out, when the tv news channel reports about bushels of wheat or bushels of corn, they aren't referring to the same measurement. Corn used to be measured by volume, where one U.S. bushel of corn was equivalent to eight dry gallons of kernels.

One bushel of measurement is not the same for different types of grains and seeds. These differ from corn in that they are also measured by weight and moisture content. To understand how moisture content affects unit, pricing, and weight, let's use fresh chestnuts as an example. It takes roughly six weeks (according to Allen Creek Farms) to convert freshly harvested chestnuts into dried chestnuts (less than 15% moisture content) in order to store dried chestnuts or to grind it into flour. One pound of whole dried chestnuts can then be reconstituted into two pounds six ounces of rehydrated chestnuts, for culinary purposes.

Here is a basic guide to how other bushels are measured:
  • oats: 32 lbs (in the US) or 34 lbs (in Canada)
  • barley: 48 lbs
  • malted barley: 34 lbs
  • shelled corn at 15.5% moisture by weight: 56 lbs
  • wheat at 13.5% moisture by weight: 60 lbs
  • soybeans at 13% moisture by weight 60 lbs
That said, the next time you are in a discussion about weights and measures or someone casually asks for your definition of an "order of magnitude", it is best to ask what definitions are being used.
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