Agronomist Jeremy Boychyn with the Alberta Wheat Commission speaks to a crowd at an agriculture conference in Innisfail recently. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News

Central Alberta wheat producers should be aware of the effects of falling number

Falling number is a test to helps identify the structural integrity of the starch chains in wheat

The Alberta Wheat Commission says there are a number of concerns farmers should be aware of when planting their harvest.

Most farmers in Alberta know moisture conditions can effect their harvest. Last season’s wet summer and delayed harvest has lead to numerous complications for farmers.

The final Alberta Crop Report for 2019, released on Dec. 3, said there was seven per cent of crops still out in the fields in the Central and Northwest areas of the province.

Jeremy Boychyn, an agronomist with Alberta Wheat Commission, says there are other concerns, such as falling number and fusarium, that farmers should be aware of.

The falling number is something that producers should pay particular attention to as it is becoming more of a requirement for exports.

Falling number is a test to helps identify the structural integrity of the starch chains in wheat and is done at a grain elevator.

The process involves grinding a small sample of the wheat into a powder, adding water and mixing it for 60 seconds. The falling number is the number of seconds it takes for the stirrer to fall to the bottom of the test tube through the wheat slurry mixture.

“It is an international standard that our buyers are asking for,” Boychyn said. “When they are talking to these grain elevators they are asking for specifics on falling number.”

At this time, falling number is not included in the Canadian Grain Commission’s grading standards.

Falling number is largely caused by environmental factors.

“I always compare it back to protein, in that, 80 per cent of what your falling number is going to be is going to be effected by the environmental conditions in which it grows,” Boychyn said.

Boychyn says a chilling event, such as getting wet snow prematurely, will break down the starches in grain and turn them to sugar.

When enough of the grain is broken down into sugar, then the germination process and sprouting will start.

“Falling number decrease is the beginning stage of sprouting,” Boychyn said.

Boychyn says some options to help mitigate the decline is by planting both short and long season crops, and also planting earlier in the year.

The falling number can also affect the price a farmer gets for his crop.

In Alberta there can be a great variance in the test from place to place. Boychyn recommends having the product tested a few different places.

“You want to make sure you know what you are dealing with and what you have in the bin, so getting multiple tests from multiple elevators will help you better understand what you have in that bin.”

He also recommends sending grain to be tested by the Canadian Grain Commission, where they offer free sampling and offer “lab quality” results.

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