Wheat varieties tested for susceptibility to pre-harvest sprouting

Wheat grain quality at harvest can have a huge impact on the price you receive for your grain. Now you can find out how your varieties rate for pre-harvest sprouting.

Severely sprouted spikes like these are not typically observed in the field. Although spikes in the field may not have any visual sprouting symptoms, it does not mean sprouting damage hasn't occurred. Photo: Linda Brown, MSU.

Severely sprouted spikes like these are not typically observed in the field. Although spikes in the field may not have any visual sprouting symptoms, it does not mean sprouting damage hasn't occurred. Photo: Linda Brown, MSU.

Pre-harvest sprouting is a serious grain quality concern for millers and farmers alike. Sprouting is when the seed breaks dormancy and creates enzymes to begin breaking down kernel starch. As this process continues, the grain’s value to millers greatly diminishes. Pre-harvest sprouting is more likely to occur where there is frequent rainfall and high humidity once the grain reaches maturity. Additionally, cold shock during grain development can lead to pre-harvest sprouting.

Falling numbers is a test that indicates how well the grain’s starch has retained its strength. To conduct the test, you must grind the grain into meal, add water, mix with a stirrer and add heat for 60 seconds. Heat activates the starch to produce a thick, gelatinous consistency. Thin consistency indicates that the starch has already been degraded. The falling number is the number of seconds it takes for the stirrer to fall to the bottom of the test tube. The longer it takes the stirrer to fall, the higher the quality of starch (longer chains). If it falls quickly, that is an indicator that alpha-amylase enzyme may be at high enough levels to start the starch degradation process for seed germination. Millers prefer wheat testing above 300 seconds. Discounts begin at levels less than 240 to 260, depending on the year, the elevator and the needs of the end-user. Wheat with low falling numbers may only be able to be sold as livestock feed.

It became apparent early in the 2017 wheat harvest that falling numbers was a problem in some areas of Michigan. Therefore, samples were collected from the Tuscola County state yield trial location and tested for falling numbers at Michigan State University’s Cereal Milling and Product Laboratory by Schae-Lee Olckers. Results are listed in the table below. All varieties were located in the same field, so weather conditions should be fairly consistent and not the cause of variability between varieties. This information is valuable in determining which varieties are better able to resist sprouting. When selecting varieties, use multi-year data from multiple sources. 

Table 1. Falling number and category for varieties entered in the MSU Wheat Performance Trials. Samples were collected at the Tuscola County state yield trial location and submitted to the MSU Cereal Milling and Product Laboratory for testing. Categories were assigned (R=resistant, MR=moderately resistant, MS=moderately susceptible, S=susceptible, VS=very susceptible) based on the mean of the trial with separations made at one or two standard deviations above and below the mean. Data in this table are from one location, in one year only. When selecting varieties, use data from multiple years and multiple locations.
BrandVarietyFalling numberGrain colorFalling number category
AgriMAXX Wheat Company AgriMAXX Exp. 1786 446.5 Red R
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1713 432.8 Red R
Michigan State University MI14R0011 426.3 Red R
Michigan Crop Improvement Association StarBurst 421.3 Red R
Michigan Crop Improvement Association Sunburst 420.5 Red R
Virginia Tech / VCIA VA11W-313 412.8 Red R
Irrer Seed Farm L11418 400.3 Red R
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1717 389.5 Red R
Rupp Seeds, Inc. 9xp710 386.5 Red MR
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro 9701 385 Red MR
Michigan State University MI14R0160 384.8 Red MR
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1718 383.8 Red MR
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1716 383.3 Red MR
Michigan State University MI14W0003 382.8 White MR
AgriMAXX Wheat Company AgriMAXX 413 381.3 Red MR
AgriMAXX Wheat Company AgriMAXX Exp. 1785 378.8 Red MR
Michigan State University VA09W-192WS-29 378.5 White MR
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1710 375.8 Red MR
Harrington Seeds, Inc. HS EX17R 375.3 Red MR
Michigan Crop Improvement Association MCIA 110201 374.8 Red MR
Irrer Seed Farm L11621 373.3 Red MR
Michigan Crop Improvement Association MCIA Venus 373.3 White MR
Wellman Seeds, Inc. W 302 373.3 Red MR
DF Seeds, Inc. DF 112 R 373 Red MR
Rupp Seeds, Inc. RS 910 373 Red MR
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1715 372.8 Red MR
Michigan State University MI14R0330 370 Red MR
DF Seeds, Inc. Aubrey 367.8 White MR
Michigan Crop Improvement Association MCIA Red Dragon 367.8 Red MR
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro 9750 366.8 Red MR
Virginia Tech / VCIA VA12W-31 365.5 Red MR
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro 9362W 361.8 White MR
Bio Town Seeds Diener XW1701 361 Red MR
Michigan Crop Improvement Association MCIA Harpoon 361 Red MR
Steyer Seeds Steyer STex166 360.8 Red MR
Harrington Seeds, Inc. Glacier 359.8 White MR
Michigan State University MI14R0009 359.8 Red MR
Wellman Seeds, Inc. W 206 359.5 Red MR
Michigan State University VA09W-192WS-121 359.3 White MR
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1714 358.8 Red MR
DF Seeds, Inc. DF 105 R 357.3 Red MR
Wellman Seeds, Inc. W 305 355.8 Red MR
Michigan Crop Improvement Association AC Mountain 353.8 White MR
Wellman Seeds, Inc. W 303 352.5 Red MR
Wellman Seeds, Inc. W 151 350.8 White MR
Rupp Seeds, Inc. 9xp732 350.3 Red MR
Michigan State University MI14R0029 349.8 Red MR
Harrington Seeds, Inc. HS 30.06 349 Red MR
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro 9552 348.5 Red MR
Michigan State University MI14W0190 348 White MR
Irrer Seed Farm L11610 347.8 Red MR
AgriMAXX Wheat Company AgriMAXX 444 346.5 Red MR
Michigan State University MI14R0288 346.3 Red MR
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro WX17441W 346 White MR
Harrington Seeds, Inc. HS EX16R 346 Red MR
AgriMAXX Wheat Company AgriMAXX 438 342 Red MR
DF Seeds, Inc. DF 111 R 341.8 Red MR
Wellman Seeds, Inc. W 204 341.5 Red MR
Michigan Crop Improvement Association Jupiter 341 White MR
AgriMAXX Wheat Company AgriMAXX 454 340.8 Red MR
DF Seeds, Inc. DF 109 R 340.3 Red MR
Rupp Seeds, Inc. RS 972 340.3 Red MR
Michigan Crop Improvement Association E6012 334.8 White MS
Rupp Seeds, Inc. RS 902 333.5 Red MS
Syngenta AgriPro SY 547 332.5 Red MS
Michigan State University MI14W0250 332.3 White MS
Irrer Seed Farm L11538 330 Red MS
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro 9692 323.3 Red MS
Wellman Seeds, Inc. W 304 319.5 Red MS
Michigan Crop Improvement Association MCIA Red Devil 319 Red MS
Syngenta AgriPro SY 100 318 Red MS
Michigan State University MI14R0213 314.5 Red MS
Virginia Tech / VCIA Hilliard 309.5 Red MS
Steyer Seeds Steyer Morrin 307 Red MS
Virginia Tech / VCIA VA11W-108PA 296 Red MS
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro 9611W 290.5 White MS
Michigan State University MI14W0245 290 White MS
Syngenta AgriPro SY 944 286.3 White MS
Bio Town Seeds Diener XW1601 285.3 Red S
Michigan State University MI14W0064 285 White S
Michigan State University MI14W0013 283.5 White S
Michigan Crop Improvement Association MCIA Whale 280.8 Red S
Michigan State University MI14R0267 276.3 Red S
Michigan State University MI14W0652 270 White S
Michigan State University MI14W0334 268 White S
Michigan Crop Improvement Association Hopewell 259.8 Red S
AgriMAXX Wheat Company AgriMAXX 464 259.3 Red S
DF Seeds, Inc. Skeet 259 White S
DF Seeds, Inc. Ambassador 258.5 White S
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro WX17702W 255 White S
Michigan State University MI14W0054 245.5 White S
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro 9242W 234.5 White S
Irrer Seed Farm Curly 227.3 Red VS
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1701 220.8 White VS
Dyna-Gro Seed Dyna-Gro 9772 217.5 Red VS
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1702 210.3 White VS
DF Seeds, Inc. DF EX 1711 209.8 Red VS

For white wheat growers, it is even more important to keep track of grain quality once wheat has reached maturity. Collect samples once grain moisture gets down to 24-25 percent and submit them to your local elevator for testing. If the falling number is below 300, you will want to resample again in a few days. If the number keeps going lower, harvest early and pay the drying cost. Leaving it in the field to dry will save drying costs, but if the falling number falls below 240-260, the discounts will likely be much more costly than the drying cost. In the 2017 state yield trials, white wheat varieties had an average falling number of 306.3, while red wheat varieties averaged 344.0.

Table 2. Farmers have learned that white wheat can be more sensitive to pre-harvest sprouting than red wheat. Listed below is the average of red and white varieties. White wheat did have a lower average falling number than red.
Grain colorAverage falling number
White 306.3
Red 344
pvalue  0.0008
LSD 41

For questions or comments, please contact Dennis Pennington at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

More information from MSU Extension

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources