Recently in my grain crops class we have covered the topic of small grains. I learned some very interesting information that I thought would be relevant to share with my readers. In this blog post I would like to specifically address wheat and all of the interesting facts about it.
Durum wheat is a spring variety of wheat that is produced for use as macaroni and couscous. Durum wheat contains 14-18% protein, is very hard and requires 10-20″ of rainfall. It is mainly produced in North Dakota, MN, and Montana.
Hard red spring wheat is produced for use as a bread flour. It contains 12-15% protein, requires 10-20″ of rainfall and is primarily produced in the same states as durum wheat.
Hard red winter wheat is also used as a bread flour. The difference in this wheat, in contrast to hard red spring wheat, is it is a winter variety (planted during winter months, undergoes vernalization, and has a cold/winter hardiness). It contains the same protein contents as hard red spring wheat, but prefers a higher rainfall amount, 10-40″. It is grown primarily in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
Soft red winter wheat is used for cakes, cookies, crackers, and biscuits. It has a protein contents of 8-10%, requires 30-50″ of rainfall, and is produced primarily in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
Soft white wheat is a winter variety that is produced for the baking needs of puffed wheat, pastries, and oriental noodles. This variety contains 7-8% protein, requires 18-24″ of rainfall and is produced in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, New York, and MI.
Hard white wheat is a winter variety as well. It is used for making tortillas, bread, etc. It is also the newest class of wheat in the United States! It contains 10-14% protein.
Notice I mentioned winter and spring varieties. Winter varieties are planted in the fall, usually around October and are harvested in July. In the fall the plant reaches the seedling and tiller stage, but does not continue growth past that until spring. This is beneficial in the sense that the plants are able to develop a more sturdy root system during the winter months, as apposed to spring varieties. Winter varieties, generally, have a higher yield and a better environmental impact because they act as a cover crop for the soil during the winter months. Spring varieties are planted in the spring and harvested late summer (usually in August). The benefits to a spring variety is no vernalization (the process of going through a cold period to initiate flowering) is required and there is not the risk of too harsh of a winter wiping out an entire crop. When it comes to the decision of selecting a spring or winter variety it is really up to the farmer and that farms unique needs for the growing season.
Sources: Dr. Michael Burton and Dr. Anson Elliot, both professors at Missouri State University.