Wheat School: Can variety selection fix a falling number problem?

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

If you’re a farmer on the prairies, there’s a good chance falling number at the elevator was brought up at least once over harvest. With that in mind, this episode of RealAgriculture’s Wheat School is focused on better understanding falling number and what — if anything — you can do when it comes to variety selection to address falling number.

RealAgriculture’s Jessika Guse caught up with Alberta Wheat Commission’s agronomy research extension specialist, Jeremy Boychyn at this year’s Prairie Cereals Summit.

The weather is one of the biggest factors when it comes to falling number, according to Boychen, and understanding sprouting mechanisms helps to wrap your head around falling number.

“I typically relate it back to protein, because I think it’s something we’re familiar with and we recognize and it’s a very environmentally driven factor,” he says. “So when we get to the end if the season, and that plant has reached physiological maturity, it needs a certain trigger to re-germinate and when we get those rain, and cold conditions, it really triggers that kernel to want to germinate.” It’s this very early sprouting that causes falling numbers to drop.

While it is environmentally driven, there are varietal differences in sprouting resistance. The main thing he says to look at in variety selection is sprouting resistance. Variety performance and seed selection can vary significantly even within the province, so start with your provincial trial results and work out from there.

Preventing a falling number problem is more about mitigating risk more than anything. Looking back at the year we had, he says when producers get into the field a little later, the risk of a falling number decrease goes up due to the higher potential of snowfall and late, cold rains. Boychen says a farmer could do everything right at the beginning of the season, but if  the weather doesn’t cooperate near the end, you can still end up with an issue.

Watch the full discussion below:

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