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Wheat & Small Grains Timely Topics – Grain Quality

“A Conversation with Arron Carter, WSU Winter Wheat Breeder” Podcast

Episode 58 of Wheat All About It! features Washington State University’s winter wheat breeder, Arron Carter. Join Scott Yates, director of communications and producer relations for the Washington Grain Commission, in “A Conversation with Arron Carter, WSU Winter Wheat Breeder” a two-part series with Arron. In this episode, Scott and Arron discuss the importance of… » More ...

The WSU Wheat Beat Podcast

Introducing the WSU Wheat Beat podcast, a new podcast brought to you by the WSU Extension Dryland Cropping Systems Team. Each week your host, Drew Lyon, will sit down with a WSU or USDA-ARS researcher to discuss the latest research related to small grains production systems in eastern Washington. Episode 1 will feature a discussion… » More ...

USDA September 1 Stocks Estimate Suggests Flat Prices Through 2017: Quick Market Update

USDA released their September 1 grain stocks estimates on Friday, September 29, 2017.  For wheat, this represents the inventory being carried into the second quarter of the marketing year (the wheat marketing year goes from June 1 through the following May 31).  In recent years, the second quarter wheat inventory has been a pretty reliable… » More ...

Western Wheat Workers Falling Number Update

  1. Fortunately in 2017, nature dealt the region some kindness and the widespread low falling numbers (FNs) of 2016 were a rare event. Economic losses to the grain industry in 2016 alone exceeded $30 million and likely approached $140 million in total after all export and seed industry costs were totaled. In response, grain industry representatives, including wheat commissioners, growers, millers, bakers, exporters, scientists, and extension personnel met at a Falling Numbers Summit in Spokane on Feb. 16, 2017 to share current knowledge, determine where more knowledge is needed, and develop priorities for action. An initial report of progress was shared on May 31, 2017, at the Western Wheat Workers meeting in Corvallis OR.

The two causes of low FNs in wheat grain are: 1) preharvest sprouting or germination on the mother plant due to rain before harvest, and 2) late maturity alpha-amylase (LMA) due to heat or cold shock during grain development. Wheat grain must meet a minimum of 300 seconds in the FN test in order to be considered of good quality. Although low FN was rarer in 2017 than 2016, low FNs have cost western farmers millions of dollars since 2011 and the problem remains a major concern. At the Falling Numbers Summit, the work was divided into five areas:

1. Improve the Hagberg-Perten Falling Number (FN) test
2. Examine alternatives to the FN test.
3. Improve preharvest sprouting resistance.
4. Breed for late maturity alpha amylase resistance.
5. Improve Communication.

Drs. Camille Steber, Craig Morris, Alecia Kiszonas and Kim Garland Campbell, all with the USDA-ARS in Pullman, prepared a written progress report based on the information presented in May titled, “Falling Number Update, Western Wheat Workers, Corvallis OR, May 31, 2017“. Much testing has been conducted this summer, so another progress report is expected in November.

Additional information on low FNs can be found on the Grain Quality Resources page.


For questions or comments, contact Kim Garland Campbell by email at

Don’t Worry About LMA and FN Yet

In 2016, Washington state wheat farmers experienced widespread problems with low Falling Numbers, for which we created our Grain Quality Resources page. The widespread low Falling Number issue was partly due to Late Maturity Alpha-Amylase (LMA) in response to wildly fluctuating temperatures about one month after pollen shedding. The high temperatures in the 90s on May 30 followed by high temperatures in the 60s has some farmers worried that we’re going to see a repeat of last year’s Falling Number fiasco. Such worries are premature because the wheat hasn’t yet reached the point where it is sensitive to fluctuating temperatures.

It is difficult to pinpoint the window of LMA-sensitivity for this year’s crop because it depends on when the wheat reached pollen-shedding, an event that depends on temperature and varies by variety. Wheat in central Washington reached pollen-shedding during the week following Memorial Day, while wheat further east is just starting to head.

Based on this, we guesstimate that wheat in central Washington may become LMA-sensitive during the last two weeks of June, while wheat further to the east may become LMA-sensitive within the first two weeks of July.

For questions or comments, contact Camille Steber, PhD, USDA-ARS, Molecular Geneticist, by email at or Ryan Higginbotham at

Raising the Quality Bar

Each spring the Idaho, Oregon and Washington grain commissions publish the Preferred Wheat Varieties brochure.  The document ranks current commercial wheat varieties based on their end-use quality and the 2017 edition has just been published! The Preferred Wheat Varieties brochure serves the grain industry by providing customers of Pacific Northwest (PNW) wheat with a ranking… » More ...
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