The falling number test is used to evaluate the amount of sprout damage in Canadian wheats. Alpha-amylase is an enzyme found in sprout-damaged wheat. If germination occurs there is a dramatic increase of this enzyme.
The falling number is the time in seconds for a stirrer to fall through a hot slurry of ground wheat. The greater the amount of alpha-amylase in the wheat, the thinner the gelationized starch paste and the faster the plunger will fall through the slurry.
A high falling number or the longer it takes the stirrer to fall indicates the wheat is sound and satisfactory for most baking processes. A No. 1 Canada Western Red Spring wheat normally has a falling number greater than 350 seconds.