The Hagberg falling number (HFN) is the measure of a specific enzyme, namely α-amylase. This enzyme attacks the starch molecules, breaking them down to sugars which then produce the gas giving the air pockets and good loaf structure. Alpha amylase levels need to be low in order to limit starch breakdown and dough stickiness. A high Hagberg falling number is an indication of low α-amylase activity and thus good protein for baking.
One of the main causes of low Hagberg falling numbers is pre-harvest sprouting caused by an uneven crop and lodging. Thus a consistent Hagberg falling number will be achieved when a crop is very even during ripening and harvest is not delayed by lodging. Agronomic principles that contribute to avoiding these problems are using the optimum nutrient rates, and by using precision farming to manage variable soil nitrogen supply. Of the major nutrients nitrogen and potassium are key to achieving even crops with strong straw that will remain standing.
Nitrogen is a key nutrient and achieving optimum application rates across all areas of the field is important to ensure an even crop at harvest. An accurate nitrogen management plan should be calculated along with care to apply the nitrogen as precisely as possible through correct equipment calibration.
Further crop evenness in ripening will be achieved by variable nitrogen application, thus accounting for the uneven soil nitrogen supply that is apparent in many fields. This variation in soil nitrogen supply may be a result of different soil types, organic manure use, or previous field cropping history.
Adequate available potassium is essential for the production of high-quality marketable grain with good specific weight and well filled grains. A shortage will result in premature ripening with significantly lower individual grain size and weight, and will also prevent some potential grain sites from developing, thus reducing the number of grains per ear.
Potassium is also important for straw stiffness and prevention of lodging. Lodged crops are more likely to ripen unevenly and suffer from sprouting leqading to lower Hagberg numbers.