Brooks (Rural Roots Canada) – What is Falling Number and why a low number can be an issue in crops.
Alberta Wheat Commission and Alberta Barley Agronomy Research Extension Specialist Jeremy Boychyn says Falling Number is the measurement of grain starch.
“As that grain is filling it’s building starches in the kernel and then under certain weather conditions that kernel will actually start to turn that starch into sugars and this is not something that we like to see when it comes to end-use quality (such as) milling, baking,” Boychyn said.
Boychyn says farmers want to see a Falling Number in the 400 range, and if it is below 300, then it is in the ‘risk zone.’
He says crops in the ‘risk zone’ can create challenges for producers and companies selling internationally.
“It’s primarily caused by environmental factors during harvest season. It’s something that when Mother Nature brings us an early September snowfall (or rain), that is really what is triggering this. So it really is a question of how do we put ourselves in a lower risk scenario.”
Boychyn says there are tools you can use when you are planning what you are going to grow.
“That’s by choosing shorter season varieties, you are going to take a yield hit, but if you are seeing Falling Number impacts each year may be something you want to utilize.”
He adds choosing varieties that are more sprouting resistant can also help.
“Falling Number is a factor that leads into sprouting as those starches break down into sugars, those sugars are then used for sprouting, so they are part of the same system. So picking varieties that have a stronger resistance sprouting, you are stronger resistance to Falling Number decrease.”
Boychyn says Falling Number is an Internationally used standard measurement but is not yet a part of the Canadian Grain Commission grading system.
We will have more on how to manage a crop with a low Falling Number at harvest coming up next week.