- Anusuya Manikandan
What is the Falling Number in Wheat?
The Hagberg falling number (HFN) test or falling number test is used to find the amount of sprout damage in wheat. The sprouting of wheat during/after harvest will reduce the quality of wheat for baking. This is because of increase in the alpha-amylase activity in the wheat because of sprouting.
What is Alpha-amylase? Why Falling number is important?
Alpha-amylase is an enzyme which breaks down long chain starch into sugar which assists in the fermentation process. The quality of the bread produced depends on the amount of alpha-amylase present in the flour. More amount of alpha amylase in the flour results in more sugar, so that the slurry (water + flour) will be less viscous, which means more amount of flour is required to prepare a loaf of bread and the baked bread will have low volume and the bread crumbs will be sticky. If the amount of alpha amylase in the wheat flour is low, the slurry will be more viscous and the bread crumb will be dry and also results in lesser volume of bread.
The right amount of alpha-amylase will ensure the good quality of bread and ensure high volume of bread. That's why the bakers insist the flour mills to provide the wheat flour with a good falling number. Therefore, the millers may add different quality wheat to provide the required falling number. The alpha-amylase activity is inversely proportional to the falling number. i.e if the falling number is more, the alpha-amylase present in the wheat flour is lesser and vice versa.
How is the Falling Number measured?
The falling number is the time in seconds for a stirrer to fall through a hot slurry of ground wheat. The higher the amount of alpha-amylase in the wheat, the thinner the gelatinized starch paste (low viscous) and the faster the plunger will fall through the slurry. Indian wheat normally has a falling number greater than 300 seconds.
A 7gm of wheat flour with moisture content of 14% is taken in a test tube and mixed with 25ml of water and mixed well to form the slurry, and a plunger is placed in test tube, and the test tube is placed in the hot water bath and stirred for 60 seconds, and soon after the plunger is allowed to drop by its own weight through the hot slurry. The total time in seconds it takes the plunger to reach the bottom including the 60 second stirring time is the result of falling number test.
Falling number = Preheating time + Stirring Time + Time taken for the plunger to reach the bottom. (Eg) Falling Number = 5 s + 55 s + 240 s = 300 seconds
What causes low, falling numbers in wheat?
When wheat seeds break dormancy and begin to sprout prior to harvest, quality of the seed can degrade quickly. When sprouting occurs, alpha amylase enzymes begin to break down the long chains of starch into simple sugars. The sprouting may occur because of rain or wet atmosphere once the wheat seed is matured at the beginning of harvest season. Even without rain, because of thermal shock (sudden and high temperature variation) also produce Late maturity alpha-amylase (LMA) during the grain maturation period.
What can farmers do to reduce economic losses due to low falling numbers?
The Falling number depends on the genetics and the environmental condition.
Harvest wheat quickly after maturity. Harvesting wheat quickly after maturity reduces the chances of rain damage.
Plant wheat with genetic resistance to pre-harvest sprouting and late-maturity alpha-amylase.
Avoid mixing sprouted grain with unsprouted grain. Because alpha-amylase is an enzyme catalyst, a little bit of enzyme can cause serious falling number problems. For example, mixing equal amounts of 200 sec grain with 400 sec grain will not give a falling number of 300 sec. Instead the falling number may fall well below 300.
Store mildly sprouted grain. Some research suggests that the alpha-amylase enzyme is degraded over time if stored at room temperature. However, the elevated temperature of storage may increase the alpha-amylase activity which decreases the falling number. Storing badly sprouted grain does not improve falling numbers, either because there is too much alpha-amylase present or because starch damage has already occurred.
Price of Indian Wheat for Exports
The unavailability of Wheat from Ukraine and Russia have increased the exports of Wheat from India. The daily FOB price of Wheat is updated in the Price page of viyasgroup.com (Click here). To know the CIF rice, please fill the form in the mentioned page. The stocks of wheat in India and export scenario can be explained below.
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