As wheat harvesting season comes to an end, farmers brace for a potential threat to their crop that costs tens of millions of dollars each year. High levels of alpha-amylase protein in wheat can lead to a low falling number score, a factor that determines the quality and price of wheat. If growers cannot detect wheat with a low falling number, the wheat may mix with sound wheat on farms, in grain elevators or during transport, compromising the entire bushel. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research is awarding a $835,800 Seeding Solutions grant to Washington State University to develop a faster, cheaper and more accurate test, to prevent mixing of low and high falling number wheat. The current falling number test, developed almost 70 years ago, is slow, expensive, exhibits high variability and does not assess alpha-amylase levels directly. In addition to developing new rapid tests, the grant also includes developing an early warning system to alert grain handlers to weather patterns likely to cause spikes in alpha-amylase.
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