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As U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) President Vince Peterson often says, at any given hour of the day there is someone, somewhere, talking about the quality, reliability and value of U.S. wheat. Wheat Letter is sharing some of the ways USW was working in the third quarter of marketing year 2023/24 to promote U.S. wheat in an ever more complex world grain market.

Trade, Technical Service in South Korea

In January 2024, USW Seoul Country Director Channy Bae and Food/Bakery Technologist Shin Hak (David) Oh carried out trade and technical service to flour mills in western Korea.

U.S. soft white wheat kernels

Soft white (SW) wheat.

Channy Bae shared an early forecast of U.S. and world wheat supply and demand with the millers. David Oh also reported on the results of a 2023 short course at the Wheat Market Center demonstrating the positive performance of alternative U.S. wheat flour blends to local standard flours. One of those alternatives, using competitively priced U.S. soft white (SW) to replace Australian soft white wheat in noodle applications. The USW representatives also presented data on the cost and performance advantages of U.S. hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) flour blends for bread products compared to Canadian spring wheat.

Optimizing HRW Wheat Performance in Colombia

Also in January, USW Santiago and a flour milling consultant worked with three milling companies in Colombia that had purchased 12.5% protein (12% moisture basis) HRW that the U.S. government had donated to a South American non-governmental organization (NGO). The NGO used proceeds from the wheat sale for local economic development projects. The millers each found opportunities to use the higher protein flour in blends while benefiting from USW’s technical milling support. The activity built a base of new knowledge about the range of U.S. HRW quality and USW Santiago will monitor continued interest from the Colombian millers.

U.S. hard red winter wheat.

Milling Management Seminars in Southeast Asia

USW’s regional office in Singapore planned and conducted milling workshop and technical service visits focused on “milling core competency” to meet with representatives from mills in the Philippines and Vietnam. Three one-day workshops featured Associate Director Shawn Thiele and Grain Quality & Feed Manufacturing Specialist Carlos Campabadal with the IGP Institute, Manhattan, Kan.

These consultants presented information on mill key performance indicators (KPIs), blending practices, storage, and mill maintenance among other issues millers had identified during USW-sponsored activities in 2023. In total 169 participants from 30 mills attended the workshops held in Ho Chi Minh City, Cebu, and Manila. Additionally, two participants from a mill in Thailand attended the Manila Seminar.

Providing assistance to millers in this important market will help them continue to recognize the value of using high quality U.S. wheat classes.

IGP Assistant Director Shawn Thiele leads the lecture session on the first day of the IGP-KSU Flour Milling Course for State Administrators.

Shawn Thiele, IGP Institute

Milling Donated Hard White Sample in South Africa

Keeping Shawn Thiele busy, USW Sub-Sahara African regional office in Cape Town, sponsored his technical assistance helping a large South Africa company mill a sample of U.S. hard white (HW) wheat that USW made available with funding from the Agricultural Trade Promotion program. Opportunities exist in South Africa to develop demand for this new-to-the-market HW because this class of wheat offers higher extraction rates while minimizing ash content for certain types of flour. Currently U.S. wheat sales to South Africa include HRW and soft red winter (SRW) wheat.

U.S. Wheat Market Development Planning

USW’s 13 overseas and two domestic offices also conducted their annual marketing planning over the past three months. Annual investments in USW’s work by 17 state wheat commission member organizations qualify USW to apply for program funds from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). FAS cooperators like USW must submit an annual marketing plan called the Unified Export Strategy (UES). The plan evaluates past efforts, documents progress against specific goals, and suggests future wheat export market development activities for all markets. FAS will evaluate the current plan and will announce its funding awards for 2025 activities later in 2024.

 

 

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Six sets of seven chromosomes make the wheat genome five times larger than the human genome. This complexity makes wheat breeding even more difficult, but technology like double haploid breeding has helped public and private researchers unlock potential agronomic, quality and even nutritional traits. Key to this work is a farmer-backed, for-profit plant services company housed at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center — Heartland Plant Innovations (HPI).

Starting with Synergy

Technology for crop improvement experienced a boom in the early 2000s, but applying those techniques was focused on corn and soybeans. The push to start HPI was the result of the industry’s recognition that wheat was being left behind when it came to applying innovative breeding tools.

“We were just trying to bring the message that we needed to make sure that wheat stayed relevant in the United States compared to other crops,” said HPI President/CEO Dusti Gallagher. “We wanted to let them know producers, specifically in Kansas and HRW (hard red winter wheat) producers, were really interested in bringing innovations and technology to the forefront with wheat because, at the time, we were losing a little ground to other crops.”

Photo of Dusti Gallagher, President/CEO of Heartland Plant Innovations.

Dusti Gallagher

The industry faced another significant challenge at the time — a lack of synergy and collective focus. As a result, a core group brought together representatives from across the industry, including producers representing the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas State University, the University of Kansas (K-State) and private companies.

“It started with communication. At that time, there was very little communication between the public and private sectors on wheat breeding; everybody was doing their own thing,” Gallagher said. “So, it started with bringing everybody to the same table to talk about what our common interests were. And once we did that, it started falling into place.”

Heartland Plant Innovations was officially formed in 2009. Kansas farmers, through state organizations, have majority ownership in HPI, and other members include private companies, universities and individual shareholders. The company started in Throckmorton Hall but quickly recognized that their work to amp up breeding technology required lab space, growth rooms, greenhouse space and other spaces to mix soil, plant pots, thresh heads and more. As a result, the early success of HPI helped provide the spark that led to the construction of the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, where the company is now housed.

Today, HPI has seven full-time staff drawn from all over the world for their unique expertise, including agronomy, molecular biology, botany and biotechnology. In addition, two to three part-time students gain hands-on experience by assisting with harvesting, threshing, caring for plants and more.

Doubling Down on Double Haploids

Instead of competing with public and private wheat breeding programs, Heartland Plant Innovations was built around the idea of providing additional bandwidth and applying very specific technologies to assist those programs. The first — and still primary — of these tools is the production of double haploids, which essentially cuts half the time out of the wheat breeding process.

“We’re basically taking only the genetic material from one of the parents, the female parent, and we’re keeping those genetics and rebuilding that plant to where it can be a mature seed-producing plant,” Gallagher said. “And so, there’s a lot of steps along the way.”

The goal of the double haploid process is to create a population of plants that all have the same genetics across all their chromosomes, something that takes generations of traditional breeding to achieve but can be accomplished in a single year with the double haploid process.

Image shows a researchers hands removing male parts of wheat plant spikelets to allow fertilization of plants in the double haploid breeding process.

The doubled haploid process rapidly yields true-breeding lines that can reliably be tested and selected for specific, desirable improvements. Conventional plant breeding techniques achieve the same objective but over a much longer time. For winter wheat, the doubled haploid process delivers true breeding wheat lines in just one year, as compared to about six years for conventional methods. Source: Heartland Plant Innovations.

“We’re basically rescuing a very tender, very delicate haploid embryo and culturing it and taking care of it until it becomes a viable seedling,” Gallagher said. “Then we double its chromosomes through a process that we’ve created and that we’ve refined here at HPI. And that doubling process then creates a double haploid plant.”

The seeds from these plants then go back to wheat breeding programs, where breeders know the exact genetic material and can more efficiently evaluate lines in their programs.

“When they take it to the field, and they grow it, and they start evaluating it, they know its genotype, then they can make better decisions, and they can either advance that line quickly through their program, or they can make a decision that they need to do more crossing with it,” Gallagher said. “So, the double haploid process is a tool that allows a better-quality line to go through the process, and breeders can advance it quickly, and they can make better decisions based on that very pure genetic line that we provide to them.”

Heartland Plant Innovations has capacity to produce 20,000 double haploids a year and works with customers from all over the United States, from wheat breeders to public and private crop improvement programs. The process is fee-for-service, so it is open to the entirety of the wheat breeding pipeline.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the first seeds that have gone through our program,” Gallagher said. “They’ve been released to producers, and so they’ve been very good, healthy varieties that have proven to be profitable for producers.”

In addition to double haploid production, HPI also provides technical expertise using other advanced plant breeding tools, including genotyping and marker-assisted selection as well as supporting traditional wheat breeding programs and proprietary projects. Every piece of the business, however, is built on partnerships.

“The producers are really the foundation for all of this,” Gallagher said. “Everything that we do is driven toward making a better opportunity for those producers to have better varieties to be able to improve their bottom lines.”

Photo of Bob Dole wheat variety - Courtesy Kansas Wheat

The end result of breeding research at the Kansas Wheat innovation Center – Heartland Plant Innovations is new high-yielding, high-quality wheat varieties for farmers and their milling and baking customers around the world.

More to Come

From uncovering the dense nutrients for improving wheat as a food crop to bringing in trails from wheat’s wild relatives or improving agronomic traits, Gallagher told Harries there is still more to unlock in the wheat genome.

“I really don’t believe that we have tapped the genetic potential of wheat,” Gallagher said. “We’re just now getting to the point where we’ve mapped the wheat genome, and there’s still so much in there that we need to help discover, and that takes time.”

“Investment in wheat research is critical to us continuing to uncover the vast benefits wheat has to offer,” Gallagher said. “Continue to support universities and checkoffs because it’s those wheat research dollars that are really going to make an impact. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing, but also looking at new opportunities and new technologies — and that’s what we’re here to do at HPI.”

Julia Debes wrote this article for Kansas Wheat, a member of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). Gallagher recently sat down with Aaron Harries, Kansas Wheat Vice President of Research and Operations, on the Kansas Wheat “Wheat’s on Your Mind” podcast to discuss HPI’s positive impact on the wheat breeding pipeline.

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Earlier this month, flour mill executives, grain procurement managers, and representatives of state trading companies from 19 countries (photo above) traveled to Fargo, N.D., sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) to participate in the Grain Procurement Short Course for Importers at the Northern Crops Institute (NCI).

USW and NCI believe customer engagement, supply chain transparency, and accessible global market information are the building blocks for mutually profitable relationships with U.S. wheat customers. To promote engagement and transparency, USW partners with NCI at North Dakota State University (NDSU) annually to offer the Grain Procurement Short Course for Importers. The course’s primary focus is customer education on wheat procurement strategies, risk management, and navigating the U.S. supply chain.

An Emphasis on Information and Data

The ten-day session began in the classroom led by industry-leading experts at NDSU including Dr. Bill Wilson, Dr. Frayne Olson, and Dr. David Bullock. The lectures provided a durable foundation of traditional agricultural fundamentals, cash and futures markets, technical analysis, and risk management tools such as hedging and options.

From there, other coursework built upon the foundational knowledge with advanced sessions on risk management, U.S. wheat quality and value, rail logistics, and experiential learning in the NDSU Commodity Trading Lab.

Moreover, a common theme throughout the course was the importance of data analytics and information in the marketplace. Drs. Wilson and Olson highlighted various sources of information that are useful and relevant for customers, including the U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report, the USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, and the USDA AMS Market Reports, among others. They stressed that as the industry continues to evolve, customers need a range of information sources and improved data analysis methods to understand market movements and trends.

Grain Procurement Course participants at NDSU wheat variety trial plot

NDSU Hard Red Spring Wheat Breeder, Dr. Andrew Green, provides an overview of the NDSU variety trial test plots and the wheat breeding process.

Firsthand Experience Facilitates Transparency

The latter half of the course included tours providing an in-depth look into U.S. supply chain infrastructure and grain marketing system.

Course participants toured the NDSU variety trial plots, up-country shuttle train loading facilities, and a domestic flour mill, contributing to a better understanding of the U.S. domestic market. The team then went to Duluth, Minn., to observe the U.S. export infrastructure in the Port of Duluth-Superior, including assets owned by CHS and Hansen-Mueller, to complete the U.S. supply chain overview.

Touring U.S. supply chain infrastructure provides a unique opportunity for customers to see first-hand how grain moves from farm fields to the elevator in Duluth, demonstrating the reliability, effectiveness, and transparency of the U.S. supply chain.

Building Lasting Relationships

Finally, the course concluded with meetings at grain exporting companies in Minneapolis, Minn., including major exporters such as CHS, Cargill, and ADM. These meetings with traders provided the opportunity to build relationships and gain additional familiarity with the U.S. grain marketing system.

Grain Procurement Course participants at CHS in Superior, Wis.

NCI program manager Brian Sorenson (third from right) and course participants at the CHS export elevator in Superior, Wis., a member of the Port of Duluth-Superior.

Upon conclusion of the course, participants left with a greater understanding of the U.S. marketing system and supply chain management strategies. One participant from sub-Saharan Africa commented, “This course not only deepened our understanding of grain procurement and guided us on how to make more effective wheat purchases with minimum risk, but also provided an invaluable platform for sharing of experience with the experts and among participants, especially those already importing U.S. wheat.”

Most importantly, the program provided the participants with a network of experts and professionals in the grain procurement and flour milling industry from around the world, fostering a spirit of collaboration and information sharing. And that is crucial to encouraging transparency and forming long-term partnerships between customers, sellers, and USW.

By USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford

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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman recently returned from Australia, where he joined members of that country’s wheat and grain industries in discussions on plant breeding innovations and other issues ripe for collaboration.

Laudeman attended an international conference in Canberra focused on the research and regulatory landscape of gene-edited crops and implications for international trade.

“As we look to the future potential for gene editing to substantially benefit wheat production, it will be critical that our mutual exporting countries, and customer bases, enable trade in products derived from these technologies,” Laudeman said. “Similar to the U.S., many research efforts for gene editing in wheat are still early in their progress in Australia and will take some time to reach their full potential.”

While in Australia, USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman (right) pauses for a photo with Dr. Rohit Mago, Team Leader of the Plant Pathogen Interactions group at CSIRO. Among other things, Mago's team works on host resistance involving identification of new sources for rust resistance both for race-specific and adult plant resistance in wheat.

While in Australia, USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman (right) pauses for a photo with Dr. Rohit Mago, a Principal Research Scientist and Team Leader of the Plant Pathogen Interactions Group at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), an Australian government agency responsible for scientific research.

Laudeman pointed out that the U.S. has been one of the early global leaders in advancing updated biotechnology regulations to cover gene editing. From USW’s perspective, the hope is that the U.S. system will be a learning experience for the rest of the world in managing the pros and cons that have come out of our updated regulations.

In addition to gene editing, Laudeman also engaged the Australians on the potential for GMO wheat to come to the global market. Bioceres, the company seeking to champion their HB4 drought tolerant GMO wheat globally, has indicated that both the U.S. and Australia may be among the first global wheat exporters outside of Argentina to potentially work with the technology.

Outside of plant breeding innovations, there are additional collaboration opportunities with Australian industry when it comes to non-tariff barriers to trade. Historically, tariffs were the primary trade policy challenge for wheat exporting countries, but increasingly, non-tariff barriers have been the more substantial area of concern.

“These non-tariff barriers often impact exporters globally in similar ways,” Laudeman explained. “Being able to collaborate with another major global wheat exporter to ensure consistent, science-based trade is a major opportunity for USW to address longstanding barriers, such as China’s implementation of their wheat tariff-rate-quota (TRQ) system or Turkish flour dumping on the global market.”

Similarly, as sustainability continues to dominate conversations around the world, partnering with like-minded countries to ensure science-based access to essential technologies will be critical to pushing back against regulatory overreach that can effectively become a barrier to trade, Laudeman noted.

Laudeman was able to tour farms in Australia and learn about how farmers in the region approach planting and harvest seasons. He was also able to see how they are using new technologies in their fields.

“The USW policy team will continue to explore these collaboration opportunities to leverage global partnerships that drive more opportunities for U.S. wheat exports around the world,” he said.

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In an example of USW’s commitment to service, it has combined knowledge with experience to extend the shelf life of bakery products. Headline photo: USW Baking Consultant Roy Chung leading a bread baking course at the UFM Baking and Cooking School in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo courtesy of UFM)

Expanding the window of time breads and cakes remain fresh would help retailers, food distributors and bakers around the world broaden their customer bases and grow their businesses. It would also benefit the U.S. wheat industry, which provides a key ingredient for baked goods in international markets.

But can the window really be expanded? U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) believes it can.

In an example of USW’s commitment to service, the organization’s technical staff and consultants have combined knowledge with experience to extend the shelf life of bakery products. USW has “explored all possibilities” to develop processes and procedures that result in products remaining fresh for days – even weeks – longer than current standards.

Eager to Share the Knowledge

USW, which plans to conduct educational courses late next year or early in 2024 to share what it has learned on the topic, is confident its classrooms will be full.

Most of USW’s work on extending shelf life has been conducted in Southeast Asia, but the lessons learned apply to every bakery across the globe.

“In Southeast Asia, a typical shelf life of bread is seven days, and the maximum shelf life is about 10 days,” explained USW Baking Consultant Roy Chung, who is based in Singapore. “For large bakeries and food distributors, extending it beyond that 10 days would mean they could sell baked goods in towns and villages farther away from their manufacturing base. Retail markets would benefit. Consumers would benefit. Everyone up and down the supply chain would benefit, too.”

USW is planning to conduct educational courses to share what it has learned about extending the shelf life of baked goods.

USW is planning to conduct educational courses to share what it has learned about extending the shelf life of bread and other baked goods. Lessons taught in the courses will apply to bakeries in every region of the world.

The ‘Squeeze Test’

Shelf life is defined as “the time during which a freshly-manufactured product remains acceptable to the consumer.”  Of course, consumers in each region have different tastes and preferences, but the main goal of extending shelf life is universal: The product must pass the “squeeze test.”

The test plays out every day, in every grocery or supermarket. A shopper eases up to a bakery shelf, positions a hand over an unsuspecting loaf of bread and gently squeezes in order to judge the freshness of a prospective purchase.

USW’s work aims to help more loaves and baked goods pass the squeeze test long after leaving a baker’s oven. The result would be more consumers in more places having the ability to purchase the products. That in turn creates more demand for U.S. wheat.

Enemies of Shelf Life

According to Chung, the two major factors that lead to failure in extending shelf life are mold and staling.

“These are separate issues that must be tackled separately, and those are the things we have been working on,” he said. “The mold problem involves things like sanitation, moisture, temperature, relative humidity, water activity and the use of preservatives. The staling problem involves formulation and ingredients selection.”

Tools and formulas in the effort are many, including natural gums and enzymes, sugars and fats, and chemical additives and alternatives to chemical additives. Packaging innovations are being addressed, too, such as packing bread and other baked goods in airtight plastic under a modified atmosphere.

The tools and formulas used are designed to match consumer preferences.

For example, the European market is less accepting of additives. The typical shelf life of a loaf of bread was traditionally one day, but now is 2 to 3 days.

“This is achieved either by using very high-quality wheat such as hard red winter (HRW) or hard red spring (HRS), which have a slower rate of natural staling than some lower-cost wheats,” Peter Lloyd, USW Regional Technical Manager based in Morocco, said. “Our efforts in the European Union and Middle East regions also promotes the use of HRS wheat in bread as a way of getting to cleaner labeling (less additives), a growing issue in that part of the world.”

Longer Shelf Life, Cleaner Labels

The various requirements and preferences in different countries and regions makes the USW effort to extend shelf life of breads and baked goods an ideal subject for baker education.

And a perfect topic for USW’s planned training course and technical support for its overseas customers.

“There are many details involved in achieving the ultimate goal of reaching more consumers with quality bakery products made with U.S. wheat,” said Chung. “We are planning to offer a course that addresses all those details, and from the conversations we have had, there is tremendous interest everywhere.”

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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) wishes all the best to our friend and colleague Janice Cooper as she retires as Managing Director of the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) at the end of the month. A long-time friend of the U.S. wheat industry, Cooper has had various roles putting her in direct contact with U.S. wheat farmers and customers.

Janice Cooper

Janice Cooper.

“Six years ago, we negotiated an employment contract, signed it and Janice was on the job within an hour at her first Wheat Marketing Center full board meeting. No drama, just a calculated approach to move ahead as managing director. Her background in lab services, market development and education made her perfectly suited to lead the industry’s Portland operation as the technical crossroads of the world,” said Bill Flory, WMC chairperson and Idaho wheat farmer. “Janice’s calm demeanor and consideration for employees, public and proprietary partners, and the board of directors have served us well. WMC is in a great position to continue enhancing growers’ profitability by better understanding U.S. wheat’s strengths and competitive standing worldwide because of our Janice Cooper.”

Before joining the Wheat Marketing Center in 2015, Cooper spent six years as the Executive Director of the California Wheat Commission and earlier managed the California Association of Wheat Growers. In addition to her experience in the wheat industry, Cooper has a broad background in business development and trade policy in the banking, high tech and renewable energy sectors. Cooper was also a member of the Grain Industry Advisory Committee, the private sector group appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to advise the Federal Grain Inspection Service on its programs and priorities.

Located in the historic Albers Mill Building in Portland, Ore., WMC is a research and educational bridge between U.S. wheat farmers and their customers, dedicated to linking quality wheat and quality end products. In April 2022, Mike Moran joined WMC as its new executive director, giving him three months of overlap with Cooper to ensure a smooth transition

“I first had the pleasure to meet Janice when she was with the California Wheat Commission, and our paths were destined to cross again after she took the helm at WMC. In both roles, I have appreciated her counsel and her passion for the wheat industry, and farmers in particular,” said WMC Executive Director Mike Moran. “As I have had the opportunity to walk beside Janice these last few months, I am struck by the depth and breadth of the relationships she has developed throughout the wheat world. I am pleased to be following in her footsteps. The legacy she has built inspires me to honor that commitment to ensuring that U.S. wheat farmers and the fruits of their labor remain the quality choice for customers worldwide. I am proud that I can call her both mentor and friend.”

“Janice has helped guide WMC through an unprecedented time of global uncertainty, and her steady leadership has been an asset to both WMC and the industry at large,” said WMC Technical Director Jayne Bock. “While we are sad to see her go, we’re pleased that she has helmed a transition that sets a new path for Mike Moran and WMC going forward. We wish her all the best as she returns to California to spend more time with her family.”

“Janice Cooper’s friendly, outgoing nature and intellectual curiosity gave her the ability to make foreign guests and wheat producers alike feel welcome and included at the Wheat Marketing Center,” said USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director Steve Wirsching. “She brought superior management skills and calm leadership that allowed everyone around her to reach their full potential. She was able to resolve conflicts equitably and move the organization forward. We are all sad to see her leave.”

Janice, thank you for your service to U.S. wheat farmers.

Wheat Marketing Center staff with USW technical experts.

Technical Training. Dr. Jayne Bock, Wheat Marketing Center Technical Director, discusses baguette qualities with David Oh, USW Seoul; Adrian Redondo, USW Manila; and WMC Managing Director Janice Cooper in March during a core competency training session.

 

In cooperation with the Wheat Marketing Center, Portland, Ore., Oh (fourth from right) helped plan and conduct a Korea Baking Product Development course in 2019. Janice Cooper is pictured third from the left.

 

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Global demand for wheat food grows stronger every year, making exports vital to U.S. wheat farmers. As the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors, and government officials understand the quality, value, and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW relies on its successful working relationships with world-class educational partners that, through courses, workshops, and seminars, enhance the technical and trade service assistance to help distinguish U.S. wheat from its competitors. One of those partners is the International Grains Program Institute (IGP) in Manhattan, Kan.

Located in the Kansas State University (KSU) Grain Science Complex, the IGP Institute offers innovative technical training courses and workshops to enhance market preference, consumption, and utilization of U.S. cereal grains and oilseeds and their value-added products. On-campus, on-location, and virtual education courses are led by KSU faculty and industry professionals in the areas of flour milling and grain processing, grain marketing and risk management, and feed manufacturing and grain quality management.

Adding Value

IGP’s mission is to demonstrate that U.S. grains offer a competitive advantage over other suppliers, especially regarding quality and consistency. IGP is focused on providing technical leadership in milling, baking, and grain storage for the wheat industry.

Shawn Thiele, IGP Associate Director and Flour Milling and Grain Processing Curriculum Manager, says that hands-on training is where participants maximize their experience, which is why IGP prioritizes scheduling a majority of course time for hands-on training or field visits outside of the classroom. IGP partners with the International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) and Buhler to host many of the grain processing and flour milling courses that focus on everything wheat and milling related, from wheat selection and storage, flour blending and quality control to end-use products and mill optimization and maintenance.

“We have a range of courses from an introduction to flour milling, which is geared towards non-millers working in the milling industry, to basic and advanced milling courses,” said Thiele. “Our goal is to showcase the importance of wheat quality and train participants on how to optimize the milling process to maximize extraction and quality of the U.S. wheat. Through each of these courses, we discuss all six classes of U.S. wheat, how their different characteristics translate into different milling practices, and how to optimize each to extract its full value and quality.”

In its grain marketing curriculum, led by Guy H. Allen, Senior Agricultural Economist and Grain Marketing and Risk Management Curriculum Manager, IGP offers courses beneficial for commodity traders, bankers, and individuals responsible for buying U.S. food and feed grains. The grain procurement and purchasing course focuses on the mechanics of purchasing raw materials and features detailed discussions of cash and futures markets, contracts, and ocean transportation. The risk management course focuses on the principles of risk management and commodity price control through hedging principles and using various hedging strategies. Allen is also working on new educational opportunities featuring grain supply chain field trips throughout the United States and applied agricultural sales training focused on professional sales and marketing for agriculture and related industries.

IGP also provides training on proper grain storage and handling techniques taught by Carlos Campabadal, Feed Manufacturing and Grain Quality Management Curriculum Manager and Spanish Outreach Coordinator. Campabadal has extensive international feed manufacturing experience and travels worldwide, providing assistance and education for grain handling, storage, and feed manufacturing challenges in developing countries.

State-of-the-Art Facilities

The IGP Institute Conference Center offers multiple technology-enabled classrooms, dining facilities, a grain grading lab that meets USDA standards, and a large auditorium featuring simultaneous language translation capabilities. The complex is also home to the commercial-scale Hal Ross Flour Mill, O.H. Kruse Feed Technology and Innovation Center, the Bio-processing and Industrial Value-Added Products (BIAVP) Innovation Center, and laboratories for flour and dough testing and baking. As part of the KSU Department of Grain Science and Industry, the IGP Institute leverages the department’s unique diversity of resources.

“To meet our mission, we have many value-added tools and multi-disciplinary faculty to aid our focus on technical assistance, including millers, bakers, feed scientists, food scientists, grain storage specialists, and economists,” said Thiele. “We also utilize resources from the industry, as needed, to ensure top experts are teaching the respective material.”

Located in the heart of hard red winter (HRW) wheat country, IGP’s proximity to the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, wheat farmers, grain elevators, commercial flour and feed mills, commercial bakeries, USDA-ARS, and the Federal Grain Inspection Service all allow course participants to experience and learn from the full spectrum of the wheat supply chain.

Thiele adds that IGP’s partnerships help make its programming successful.

“U.S. Wheat Associates, the Kansas Wheat Commission, and other supporting commodity organizations are critical to what we do,” said Thiele. “In addition to financial support, the value of our relationship with industry partners and the donation of their time and materials is difficult to quantify.”

Every year, USW sponsors international customers to attend IGP courses focused on grain purchasing and flour milling. In 2022, IGP hosted USW technical staff for a core competency training session and is planning on hosting a USW advanced flour milling course for South Korean millers utilizing U.S. wheat.

USW Core Technical Training at the IGP Institute 2022

Technical Training. USW technical staff visited the IGP Institute in March 2022 for a core competency training session.

“IGP provides a good learning environment and experienced instructors that help millers lay a solid foundation for milling U.S. wheat,” said Boyuan Chen, USW Country Director for Taiwan.

Past course participants agree.

“The program helped us improve our flour milling operations,” said Vangala Ravindra from Pure Flour Mills in Nigeria. “We understand the different U.S. wheat variety characteristics, their end-uses, and impact on milling extraction and flour quality.”

Nestor Morales, from Gold Mills in Panama, attended an IGP grain purchasing course last month and is already beginning to implement what he learned.

“The staff at IGP was phenomenal. I now have a very good impression of the quality assurance that exists in the entire U.S. wheat value chain,” said Morales. “This course has the potential of improving our buying practices and better understanding the market in greater detail.”

IGP continues to look for ways to better reach U.S. wheat customers by working with industry partners and educational resources to expand on virtual and on-location training options. Recently, IGP has expanded its curriculum by adding new courses focused on the science of baking. These feature hands-on training and are taught by grain science department faculty with years of commercial baking industry experience.

Thiele said that IGP is expanding those opportunities by using innovative and engaging virtual learning platforms to record key topics that are typically only offered on-site. These new training lectures and courses will build on IGP’s virtual and on-demand training options.

“Our goal is that these tools are the first step toward customers saying, ‘wow, this is something that I need to invest more in,'” said Thiele. “At the end of the day, the biggest benefit is being in person at IGP to get the full experience and build long-lasting relationships. Nothing can replace that face-to-face interaction.”

Learn more about the IGP Institute and its programming and services at https://www.grains.k-state.edu/igp/.

By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications


Read about other USW educational partners in this series:

Northern Crops Institute Continues Tradition of Adding Value to U.S. Spring Wheat and Durum
Wheat Marketing Center Creates Educational Bridge Between U.S. Wheat Farmers And Customers
Wheat Foods Council Is A Leading Source Of Science-Based Wheat Foods Information

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Global demand for wheat food grows stronger every year, making exports vitally important to U.S. wheat farmers. As the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW relies on its successful working relationships with world-class educational partners that, through courses, workshops and seminars, enhance the technical and trade service assistance to help separate U.S. wheat from its competitors. One of those partners is the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) in Fargo, N.D.

NCI is a collaborative effort by North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota to support the promotion and market development of crops grown in the four-state region. Since 1979, NCI has been an international meeting and learning center that brings together customers, commodity traders, technical experts and processors for discussion, education and technical services. Situated on the North Dakota State University (NDSU) campus, this unique facility is only minutes from the farm fields that yield much of the world’s food. From the beginning, USW was involved in helping establish NCI and its mission and, since then, has sponsored hundreds of U.S. durum and spring wheat customers from around the world to participate in NCI programming.

A Global Reputation

NCI’s director, Mark Jirik, understands the institute’s strong tradition and reputation as a reliable resource for the U.S. wheat industry. From the start, he was impressed to witness the relationship NCI has with USW and the supporting state wheat commissions.

“This region is known as the heart of spring wheat country, a crop with a worldwide reputation for quality, so our focus on wheat has always been a baseline here on the upper Great Plains. People have made it their life’s work to make sure the world understands the quality and value of U.S. spring and durum wheat,” said Jirik. “The U.S. wheat industry is visionary and forward-thinking regarding quality. It is humbling to see the U.S. wheat industry’s vision and that its participants continue to support NCI, even when times may be tough.”

NCI provides hands-on programming that enables participants to learn about northern climate crops and their unique qualities, marketability and processing characteristics. Its laboratories are equipped for baking, pasta processing, twin-screw extrusion, grain grading and commodity and product analyses. The pilot-sized swing mill and the Feed Production Center enhance the NCI staff’s ability to demonstrate the varied uses of northern-grown crops. The NDSU Commodity Trading Room offers a live experience for participants to learn how to extract and analyze information and make decisions concerning risk and risk management.

Training for U.S. Wheat Customers

Every year USW sponsors customers from around the world to attend NCI courses focused on contracting for wheat value and grain procurement management for importers. In 2020 and 2021, those courses continued virtually. Joe Sowers, USW Regional Vice President for South Asia, regularly brings customers to NCI and has participated in a course himself.

“The Northern Crops Institute grain procurement course offers innovative training in state-of-the-art facilities, such as the NDSU commodity trading laboratory,” said Sowers. “Participants observe the mechanics of the U.S. wheat marketing system from production to storage, and transport to export, providing them with crucial information fundamental in grain purchasing. Spending nearly two weeks with buyers worldwide, participants gain useful contacts they will maintain throughout their careers.”

When participants complete a course at NCI, Jirik wants them to have a solid understanding of the value and quality — and the heart — that goes into the products they buy. “I want them to think, ‘Wow, what a fantastic experience. I understand now why I should be using U.S. wheat in my products.”

Northern Crops Institute staff with USW technical experts.

Technical Training. USW technical staff visited the Northern Crops Institute in March 2022 for a core competency training session. Our team heard presentations from their peers and industry professionals and participated in demonstrations and tours of NCI’s labs. The main focus of their training was to learn more about solvent retention capacity (SRC) and explore different methods used to obtain results. Read more about their visit to NCI.

Adapting to Digital

In Summer 2020, NCI expanded its offerings to include regular online webinars in order to better reach customers and stakeholders as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to create barriers to connecting in person.

Currently, there are three series. The “NCI Market Update” is featured twice a month. On the first Wednesday of the month, the focus is on hot topics in the commodity markets. The third Wednesday of the month features hour-long commodity market updates where guest speakers share the latest news and analysis impacting the global commodity markets. The “Cereal Innovators” series focuses on new and unique ways to use cereal grains. Topics include new processes, useful information on milling and baking, equipment information, and uses for cereal grains grown in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The “Future of Feeding” series focuses on using innovation in the processing of animal food, the equipment being used (existing and newly developed), as well as using grains from the region for co-products. View past webinars and register for upcoming webinars here.

“The pandemic forced us to think about how we deliver content and build relationships in ways we’ve never had to do before. The webinars have been instrumental in keeping our global customers informed of market trends and conditions, but have also helped us raise issues and ideas that are helping us produce better courses and other programming for the future,” said Jirik. “Being online has allowed us to connect with customers that we would never have had the opportunity to work with in the past. NCI is looking forward to having people back in Fargo, but the webinars, online courses and other delivery methods allow us to build even better relationships with a wider range of audiences.”

Learn more about the Northern Crops Institute and its programming and services at www.northern-crops.com.

By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications


Read about other USW educational partners in this series:

IGP Institute Capitalizes on Resources and Location to Provide Hands-on Training
Wheat Marketing Center Creates Educational Bridge Between U.S. Wheat Farmers And Customers
Wheat Foods Council Is A Leading Source Of Science-Based Wheat Foods Information

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Global demand for wheat food grows stronger every year, making exports vitally important to U.S. wheat farmers. As the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW relies on its successful working relationships with world-class educational partners that enhance its technical and trade service assistance to help separate U.S. wheat from its competitors. One of those partners is the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, Ore.

Located in the historic Albers Mill Building, WMC is a research and educational bridge between U.S. wheat farmers and their customers, dedicated to linking quality wheat and quality end products.

“Consumer tastes are evolving in domestic and international markets,” said Janice Cooper*, WMC Managing Director. “WMC’s programs demonstrate how U.S. wheat can be used to meet changing consumer demand with products that are nutritious and cost-competitive.”

In the mid-1980s, several state wheat commissions saw a need for a research and training facility to help U.S. wheat customers understand how to utilize U.S. wheat best. With the help of the late Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield – who helped secure a federal grant to renovate the Albers Mill Building – WMC opened in 1988. Its charter members, state wheat commissions from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska and the Port of Portland, and five additional industry members make up its board leadership. The building is also home to the Oregon Wheat Commission, Federal Grain Inspection Service, and the USW West Coast Office.

Wheat Marketing Center staff with USW technical experts.

Technical Training. Dr. Jayne Bock, Wheat Marketing Center Technical Director, discusses baguette qualities with David Oh, USW Seoul; Adrian Redondo, USW Manila; and WMC Managing Director Janice Cooper in March during a core competency training session.

Three Pillars of Work

WMC programming focuses on three pillars: technical training, research and crop quality testing.

Every year, USW identifies U.S. wheat market needs and works in partnership with WMC to provide technical training courses focused on addressing those topics. In March, WMC welcomed USW technical staff from around the world to a dynamic course focusing on technical solutions to customer challenges. And USW has commissioned several new research projects from WMC related to rapid visco analysis (RVA), sponge cake methodology, U.S. wheat flour blending options and other studies that will benefit overseas customers.

WMC also hosts a variety of other technical training courses, including independent courses that it organizes itself, partnerships with other entities and custom proprietary company courses.

In addition to technical training, WMC is involved in innovative research and product development.

“We identify research projects based on market need and market opportunity,” said Cooper. “If there is a challenge with the wheat harvest, we identify what research can be done to help navigate U.S. wheat customers through those challenges. Likewise, we study market demand and look for opportunities to help the industry move in new directions with new products.”

WMC uses its several pilot-scale lines to give participants a hands-on experience.

“From crackers to Asian noodles and cookies to a full baking lab, we have the ability to make a wide array of wheat products in-house,” said Cooper. “This equipment is the perfect size to link what is done in a research and development lab and a full-scale food production facility, which is ideal for research, training and product development.”

Bon Lee, WMC Operations Manager, displays noodle dough

Noodle Line Ready. Bon Lee, Wheat Marketing Center Operations Manager, holds dough strips to be used in the educational partner’s pilot noodle line. In the background, Claudia Gomez, USW Santiago; David Oh, USW Seoul; and Wei-lin Chou, USW Taipei, were at the WMC with other USW technical colleagues in March for a training conference.

Testing the quality of the crop is also an important service WMC provides. Each year it tests the quality of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) harvest and makes those results available in weekly reports on its website, as well as in USW’s weekly harvest report. WMC is responsible for the soft white (SW) and hard white (HW) wheat analysis featured in the annual USW Crop Quality Report and an additional, more extensive SW regional report.

Customer Focus

While many of its programs are focused on U.S. wheat customers, it is also important for the WMC to share why striving for better wheat quality is important and at the root of its mission. Throughout the year, WMC hosts several grower workshops and programs for other visiting food and agriculture groups.

“The best way to explain what we do and why is for people to visit,” said Cooper. “With the other wheat industry partners in our building and our proximity to the many export elevators here, it makes visiting the Wheat Marketing Center a well-rounded opportunity.”

For those searching for more information instead of a visit, the WMC website serves as a gateway for valuable multi-media resources on research, the facility’s equipment, crop quality and testing. Ultimately, Cooper wants U.S. wheat farmers and customers to understand how WMC is helping the industry continue to move forward.

Building Knowledge

“We are unique because our focus is on end products, technology and giving customers a hands-on opportunity to take products made with a control flour that they are already using and compare it side by side with U.S. wheat and see the difference for themselves,” said Cooper. “Customers leave with a better appreciation of how valuable U.S. wheat really is and an understanding of the commitment made by U.S. wheat farmers to provide the flour they need to make the highest quality end products they are looking for.”

Learn more about the Wheat Marketing Center and its programming and services at https://www.wmcinc.org/.

*Cooper plans to retire from WMC in 2022, and the search for her successor is underway. Also, WMC has hired Ms. Liman Liu to train with Bon Lee. Liu has extensive commercial baking and product development experience, having spent the last eight years at Dave’s Killer Bread (now part of Flowers Foods.)

By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications


Read about other USW educational partners in this series:

Northern Crops Institute Continues Tradition of Adding Value to U.S. Spring Wheat and Durum
IGP Institute Capitalizes on Resources and Location to Provide Hands-on Training
Wheat Foods Council Is A Leading Source Of Science-Based Wheat Foods Information

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This article on wheat digestibility is reprinted with permission from Prairie Grains and written by the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI). Additional thanks to the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council, a member of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).

In past issues of Prairie Grains Magazine, [AURI has] highlighted ongoing research investigating ways to reduce potentially reactive components of wheat, like FODMAPs and ATIs. FODMAPs are sugars, known as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. ATIs are proteins called amylase-trypsin inhibitors. Research indicates that “anti-nutrients,” such as ATIs, and fructans (a component of FODMAPs) in wheat have been identified as triggers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Not By Gluten Alone

There is a growing understanding that wheat digestibility issues may not be solely caused by gluten sensitivity but are also related to the presence of FODMAPs and ATIs. According to Dr. George Annor, assistant professor of cereal chemistry and technology at the University of Minnesota, FODMAPs are normally present in small quantities and tolerated by most.

However, foods with more than 0.3 grams per serving (the equivalent of two slices or more of bread) … can cause issues. FODMAPs are best tolerated if less than 0.3 grams per serving.

For individuals with this sensitivity, changes to wheat characteristics or processing techniques can result in more digestible products, increasing quality of life for consumers and allowing them to enjoy the health benefits of wheat products.

There is a growing understanding that wheat digestibility issues may not be solely caused by gluten sensitivity but are also related to the presence of FODMAPs and ATIs.

Conducted through a partnership between the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council (MWRPC), the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) and its Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, as well as Back When Foods, Inc., this research has the potential to create new products and processes that will positively impact the entire wheat industry value chain.

The hypothesis set for this research is that ATIs and FODMAPS can be reduced through breeding programs and processing techniques (i.e. sourdough fermentation) of modern, heritage and ancient wheat. The reason this topic is important to wheat growers and the entire industry is researchers’ belief these reactive components are triggers of non-celiac gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which cause many people to avoid wheat-based products. Instead, they look for less-reactive products, thus reducing the overall consumption of wheat-based products impacting the industry overall. Until now.

The MWRPC and its partners undertook this endeavor in order to create new opportunities for wheat-based products, consumable by those with wheat digestion concerns. Additionally, the study has the potential to provide new market opportunities that could have a positive financial impact for growers, the wheat industry and Minnesota.

Sliced pan bread and artisan bread loaves for article on wheat digestibility

Research suggests that wheat breeding has not increased FODMAP nor ATI levels in modern wheat varieties.

“We have identified significant variation in FODMAP and ATI levels in a diverse panel of wheat varieties, including among modern wheat germplasm,” said Dr. James Anderson, professor of wheat breeding and genetics at the U of M. “This variation may allow us to selectively breed for lower levels of these anti-nutrients. The ancient Einkorn and Emmer wheats were consistently low in FODMAPs, and Einkorn was also low in ATIs.”

Annor said research shows that sourdough production can help reduce the amount of FODMAPS and ATIs in wheat.

“Screening the ancient, heritage and modern wheat varieties for their FODMAPs and ATI gave us important insights into how these parameters vary in different wheat varieties,” Annor said. “It was apparent that we have not inherently bred them for increased levels of FODMAPs and ATI over the years. Our study also showed that fermentation was very effective in reducing FODMAPs and ATI levels in wheat in the form of sourdough. These results tell us that sourdough production can be effectively used to reduce the levels of FODMAPs and ATIs in wheat.”

New Approaches

Coupled with breeding efforts to reduce the levels of anti-nutrients in wheat lines, the degradation of FODMAPs and ATIs through sourdough fermentation provides immediate opportunities for wheat growers to regain market share by focusing their efforts on channeling their crops directly to the ever-growing artisan bakery sector. An additional channel for growers to use the research findings is in support of ongoing breeding programs and low FODMAP certification, in which large-scale processors have shown great interest.

“Both FODMAP and ATI levels appear to be under complex genetic control,” Anderson said, “thus making the selective breeding of these traits more difficult. But I’m optimistic that we can make breeding progress.” Anderson added that new approaches involving DNA sequencing and genomic prediction will be used to enhance our breeding efforts to reduce FODMAP and ATI levels.

As the project researchers and partners continue to seek ways to have a meaningful impact on the wheat industry overall, plans are underway to continue to build upon these recent findings in a second phase that focuses on further development of wheat varieties that not only have improved digestibility but also have high amylose and resistant starch content for a lower glycemic index and improved gut health (microbiome).

Financial support for this project is provided by an Agricultural Growth, Research, & Innovation Crop Research Grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The AGRI program awards grants, scholarships and cost shares to advance Minnesota’s agricultural and renewable energy industries.

For more information about the AGRI program, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/agri. To learn more about AGRI Crop Research Grants, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/cropresearch. For more information, and to follow this research, visit www.auri.org/agri.