USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman during one of the many stops on the 2023 Spring Wheat and Durum Tour across North Dakota.

USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman during one of the many stops on the 2023 Spring Wheat and Durum Tour across North Dakota.

Participating in the Wheat Quality Council’s Spring and Durum Wheat Tour for the first time, U.S. Wheat Associates’ (USW) Peter Laudeman was eager to discover what he could learn about the 2023 crop across an important section of the Northern Plains.

He wasn’t disappointed.

The tour, which included examination of more than 300 spring wheat and durum fields in North Dakota and western Minnesota, was supplemented by information about the timing of the current crop, along with the weather patterns that affect it.

“Overall, we saw a wide variety of crop conditions, with the conditions and maturity largely depending on planting dates,” reported Laudeman, USW’s Director of Trade Policy. “In general, the later planted wheat looked like it may have better potential as long as it has enough time to mature.”

Production. Process and People

Not only did Laudeman experience differing field conditions on the Wheat Quality Council’s Spring Wheat Tour, he was also able to participate in the analytics: those on the tour were asked to write down details and measurements from each field, with those measurements used to help formulate yield estimates.

Importantly, he was also able to interact with a sizeable cross-section of the U.S. wheat industry.

“There was a diverse variety of people from across the wheat value chain, many who were getting into wheat fields for the first time,” Laudeman explained. “It was especially great to see so many participants from the USDA, including representatives from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) who will be able to use their experience with the tour as a concrete proof point in their work with overseas customers for U.S. commodity exports.”

The tour included the examination of more than 300 spring wheat and durum fields in North Dakota and western Minnesota. It was supplemented by information about the timing of the current crop, along with the weather patterns that affect it.

The tour included the examination of more than 300 spring wheat and durum fields in North Dakota and western Minnesota. It was supplemented by information about the timing of the current crop, along with the weather patterns that affect it.

2023 Crop Looks ‘Average’

The three-day tour wrapped up July 27 with presentations in Fargo by the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) at North Dakota State University (NDSU). Overall, reports from the tour indicate North Dakota wheat farmers later this summer will be harvesting an average crop with good quality. The tour estimated the average hard red spring wheat yield at 47.4 bushels per acre, a bit below the 2022 tour estimate of 49.1.

Tour is Important Tool

Wheat Quality Council Executive Vice President David Green, who organized the tour, said the event is all about providing insight and education.

“Along with calculating and estimating the crop’s potential, we also aim to educate people who are new to the industry, or even those in the industry who have not experienced this process,” said Green.


As the 2023/24 marketing year begins, the market awaits the outlook for the new crop harvest. Despite early concerns anticipating wet conditions and late planting similar to the 2022 crop year, hard red spring (HRS) planting progress has surpassed expectations.

USDA NASS chart showing variable level of spring wheat planting as of June 1 for the years 2016 through 2022.

Though planting progress influences total production and yield, it is not predictive. Years with late planting can yield average crops, while rapid planting does not equate to good production potential. Factors such as soil moisture, weather, and disease pressure can significantly influence yield potential during crop development. Source: USDA NASS Data.

Rapid Planting Progress

Spring wheat farmers have made incredible planting progress after a historically snowy and cold winter delayed spring fieldwork in the Northern Plains. According to the USDA Crop Progress Report, as of June 4, 93% of the spring wheat was planted, up from 85% the week prior and even with the five-year average. In key HRS-producing states North Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota, USDA estimates plantings at 88%, 92%, and 98% complete, respectively. Over the last several weeks, rainfall has benefited soil moisture, and more recently, dry weather paired with above-normal temperatures helped accelerate planting progress. Between May 21 and May 28, 45% of the spring wheat crop was planted.

USDA NASS line graph showing spring wheat planting progress by week from 2018 through current 2023 date.

After a long winter with historic snowfall in the Northern Plains, 2023 planting (red dotted line) started late. As temperatures warmed rapidly, progress accelerated from several weeks behind to even with the five-year average. Source: USDA NASS Data.

A Hopeful Forecast

As spring wheat planting winds down, emergence hovers near the five-year average. As of June 4, spring wheat was 76% emerged, above the five-year average of 74%. The forecast predicts scattered showers for North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana, a potential benefit to the newly planted HRS crop. Topsoil moisture in the top HRS producers remains good, with 72% boasting adequate to surplus moisture in North Dakota and 66% in Minnesota; meanwhile, drought removal is likely in much of Montana’s growing regions.

Map of precipitation in the United States the last week of May 2023 shows that wheat production regions including the Northern Plains have received sufficient rain to support planting progress and growth of the spring wheat crop.

Scattered showers have greatly benefited much of the U.S. wheat-growing regions, alleviating Montana’s drought and improving conditions in other key producing states. Source: USDA Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin.

Looking Ahead

The current outlook for HRS remains positive, though continued optimism hinges upon the weather’s cooperation. Recent warm temperatures helped jumpstart planting and emergence, but additional moisture will be necessary to sustain the current confidence levels.

In addition to weather, the underlying impacts of the tight HRS balance sheet and lingering price volatility due to the war in Ukraine will continue to influence the market. As the 2023/24 marketing year continues additional information regarding the production outlook will become available.

To be released on July 12, the July Crop Production Report and the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates will include USDA’s first by-class wheat production estimates. Until then, you can stay updated with the latest crop conditions and harvest progress via the U.S. Wheat Associates weekly Harvest Report.

By USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford


Roy Chung has been teaching U.S. wheat’s international customers about the value of frozen dough for more than 30 years.  During the COVID pandemic, many of his points about frozen dough’s importance in the marketplace were confirmed, as bakeries that were using it were able to continue operations despite staffing shortages. Chung, a U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) bakery consultant, predicts that frozen dough demand around the world will continue to grow, which is good news for U.S. hard red spring (HRS), hard red winter (HRW) and soft white (SW) wheat. In this short video, Chung provides an overview of frozen dough and its importance to businesses and bakeries that purchase U.S. wheat.


Each year, on March 31, those who grow, trade or import U.S. agricultural commodities look to USDA’s annual Prospective Plantings and Quarterly Grain Stocks Report for indications of potential price movements. The consensus from analysts across the industry on how this week’s reports will affect wheat markets is generally bullish.

For reference, in its January 2023 Wheat Outlook report, USDA estimated total U.S. winter wheat planted area for 2023/24 at 37.0 million acres (14.9 million hectares), up 11% from last year to the highest level since 2015/16. The hard red winter wheat (HRW) area was up 10% to 25.3 M/ac (10.2 M/ha), while white winter wheat is up by 3% to 3.73 M/ac (1.5 M/ha). soft red winter wheat (SRW) experienced the most significant increase, jumping 20% from 2022/23 to 7.9 M/ac (3.2 M/ha). USDA’s February Grains and Oilseed Outlook projected an 8% increase in all wheat planted area to 49.5 M/ac (20.0 M/ha)

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) compiled the following pre-report perspectives.

Analysts See Lower Planted Area

Bloomberg recently surveyed more than 30 agricultural analysts about their prospective plantings estimates for wheat, corn, soybeans and other crops. The average estimate for the total wheat area came in slightly below USDA’s January estimate at 48.9 M/ac. The average winter wheat estimate was 36.3 M/ac, also less than USDA’s 37.0 M/ac. Spring and durum wheat average among the analysts Bloomberg surveyed was 10.9 M/ac for HRS and 1.7 M/ac for durum.

Back in January, agricultural consulting firm Farmers Business Network surveyed U.S. winter wheat farmer members of the organization about their planting intentions. The results showed planted area increases for HRW and SRW, with all U.S. winter wheat planted area seen at 34.2 M/ac for 2023/24, up 900,000 ac compared to their 2022 survey. That is significantly lower than USDA’s 37.0 M/ac January estimate.

Balance Sheet Tightening?

USDA data in a pie chart showing the range of wheat crop conditions in Kansas.

Kansas wheat crop conditions in late March reflects the impact of on-going drought in the western and central areas of the state.

While both Bloomberg’s and FBN’s surveys estimate of winter wheat planted area are up compared to the 2022/23 estimates, FBN Senior commodity Analyst Rejeana Gvillo said U.S. planted is “not large enough to shift the undertone of shrinking global wheat supplies. Given the acreage outlook, the drought in the Southern Plains will need to be broken come spring or summer or the U.S. wheat balance sheet could tighten further.”

Sadly, the drought has not broken in southwest Kansas, southeast Colorado, the northern Texas Panhandle, and the western Oklahoma Panhandle. There has been some easing of drought outside that hard-hit area. Justin Gilpin, CEO of Kansas Wheat does not anticipate major adjustments to USDA’s winter wheat planted area, but he is looking to other farmer decisions ahead.

“Last year, USDA began inching Kansas winter wheat acreage lower in the March report. I expect any changes or adjustments this year to be in the other direction, with slightly higher planted winter wheat acres in Kansas,” Gilpin said, which includes SRW in eastern Kansas. “But any incremental changes at this point are overshadowed by what the harvested acres might be with expected higher abandonment due to the drought conditions and poor stands in southwest Kansas.”

Spring Wheat Planting Delay?

Drought is not the problem in the Northern Plains HRS and durum region. This has been a very wet and cold winter with persistent snow cover.

“Everybody’s pretty much thinking it is going to be a late start” to planting, said Randy Martinson of Martinson Ag Risk Management in a story posted by AgWeek, Fargo, N.D.

On the Agweek Market Wrap, March 24, Martinson said with two feet of snow or more in places in the region and a forecast for little warm up in sight, some farmers already are considering looking for earlier maturing varieties and “questioning whether they should still plan to plant spring wheat.”

Asked about the Prospective Plantings report on March 31, Martinson added that the consensus among farmers he has talked to is there will be more corn and soybeans planted and less spring wheat, though more winter wheat already has been planted. However, he said there likely will be changes depending on how the spring shapes up.

Map of the United States from the USDA Forest Service shows significant snow cover in late March 2023 in the northern plains.

Snow cover in late March is still 10 inches to almost 30 inches deep in parts of U.S. HRS growing regions of South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana. Delayed planting may shift some spring wheat area to other crops this year. Source: USDA Forest Service.

Buy Signals for Speculators

Commercial traders and futures speculators are getting the same information. Barchart analyst Sean Lusk wrote this week that the market is net short in Chicago SRW wheat futures as the plantings and stocks reports are coming on the same day as the month and quarter end. He expected managed money to take profits by buying wheat into the weekend.

In the end, USW believes Martinson is correct in saying the weather and the planting report will be the market movers this week.


Editor’s Note: Important work has been done indicating that U.S. hard red spring (HRS) is a potential “clean label” ingredients for the world’s commercial bakers.  To help wheat buyers understand more about this opportunity, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is reprinting  the following post originally published in October 2021.

The concept of “clean label” products is complex but increasingly important in food production and marketing. A blog by the chief science and technology officer for the U.S.-based Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) noted that clean label is not a scientific term.

“Rather, it is a consumer term that has been broadly accepted by the food industry, consumers, academics, and even regulatory agencies,” the IFT scientist wrote. “Essentially, clean label means making a product using as few ingredients as possible … that consumers recognize and think of as wholesome—ingredients that consumers might use at home … with easy-to-recognize ingredients and no artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals.”

Familiar Example

Clean label has become associated with consumer trust in food producers. The main challenge associated with clean label products arises in part from regulations requiring labels to use scientific names for ingredients. Food makers know their ingredients are wholesome and safe, but the label may put off consumers without a scientific background. For example, the IFT clean label blog demonstrated the potential challenge for consumers who may be reading this familiar label: “Bleached Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid Enzyme,” and not know that these are the scientific names for the ingredients in all-purpose flour found in homes around the world.

Expert Insight for the Baker

Food scientist Dr. Senay Simsek is well-known and respected by many of the world’s U.S. wheat end-product producers, serving as a USW consultant and as past head of the Wheat Quality & Carbohydrate Research Program at North Dakota State University (NDSU). Before her 2021 appointment as professor and Head of the Food Science Department at Purdue University, Dr. Simsek gave a detailed video presentation on the issue of clean labeling in the baking industry for USW’s 2020 U.S. Wheat Crop Quality program.

In that presentation, Dr. Simsek noted that the clean label concept is globally recognized. She cited a survey conducted in the Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America, indicating that almost half of consumers define clean label as “free from artificial ingredients.”

In studies at her NDSU program, Dr. Simsek had a graduate assistant identify all ingredients that can be found in baked bread products. In addition to flour and water, her team identified 53 different ingredients “with so many names that people have difficulty understanding like distilled monoglycerides or calcium peroxide, but which all have functionality.”

Dr. Simsek provided an in-depth look at many of the key ingredients and their bread baking functionality in the video. Noting the list of alternative dough strengthening ingredients, Dr. Simsek turned to the results of a study by her NDSU program comparing the performance of several alternative ingredient combinations.

The Clean Label Potential of Spring Wheat Flour

“The question was, can there an alternative to added chemical ingredients to strengthen the gluten structure in a way that is accepted by consumers and simplifies the label on white and whole wheat bread products?” she said.

The study used a commonly accepted winter wheat flour base as a control. Several formulations with spring wheat flour were added at different ratios to the base. Vital wheat gluten and different chemical dough strengtheners were also added to various formulations that were all baked and compared.

Conclusion Simsek Clean Label Bread Study

Dr. Simsek’s team at NDSU studied the effects on quality by adding strong gluten spring wheat to bread formulations compared to added dough strengthening agents. Replacing chemical agents with a simple flour ingredient could improve quality and simplify commercial baked product labels.

“In white bread, [crumb] firmness values were lower in the spring wheat blends compared to the control,” Dr. Simsek said in the USW video presentation. “If we just look at the bread comparing with chemicals versus the spring wheat blends, spring wheat blends were more functional, and they provided a better product compared to chemicals. Overall quality in terms of spring wheat blends versus the chemical, water observation was equal or better than additives, farinograph stability was better than additives, and the loaf volumes were equal or better than additives.”

Similar results were seen in whole wheat bread comparisons, Dr. Simsek said.

Noting that more investigation into the clean label potential of added strong gluten flour is needed to expand understanding, Dr. Simsek said, “the take-home message is that spring wheat could be a good option to replace oxidizing agents in bread formulations to have clean label bakery products.”



As U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) President Vince Peterson often says, at any given hour of the day someone, somewhere, is talking about the quality, reliability and value of U.S. wheat. Wheat Letter wants to share just some of the ways USW has been working recently to build a preference for U.S. wheat in an ever more complex world wheat market.

Lauding Nutritious, Delicious U.S. Baking Ingredients in China

USW Beijing participated in the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) “Discover U.S. Baking Ingredients and Trends” hybrid virtual promotion in August 2022 (activity banner in the photo above). The purpose of this activity was to raise Chinese bakers’ awareness of the nutrition, health benefits, taste, and versatility of U.S. baking ingredients. The FAS Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) in Beijing and 10 USDA Cooperators with products ranging from wheat, dried fruit and nuts to dairy sponsored the activity partnering with the China Association of Bakery and Confectionery Industry.

USW Beijing staff with ATO Beijing at a U.S. Baking Ingredients event.

In-store promotion product 2 using U.S. dried blueberry and California almond slices and U.S. wheat flour

In-store promotion products using U.S. dried blueberry and California almond slices and U.S. wheat flour.

ATO Beijing reported the activity reached an audience of over 2.5 million netizens in China through social media platforms and

over 200,000 real-time viewers through livestreaming. There was also in-store promotions at leading bakery houses in Beijing where “consumers warmly welcomed the new products featuring U.S. baking ingredients,” ATO Beijing reported. Additionally, ATO Beijing strengthened connections with baking associations and businesses and generated trade leads with this activity. Read more here.

USW Beijing Technical Specialist Ting Liu and Marketing Specialist Kaiwen Wu played direct roles representing the essential quality of flour from U.S. wheat in the events. In the three full marketing years since the trade war ended, China has imported a total of more than 168 million bushels (4.58 million metric tons) of U.S. hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS), soft white (SW) and soft red winter (SRW) wheat, and have already imported almost 23 million bushels of U.S. wheat in the current marketing year that ends May 31, 2023.

Helping a Mexican Baker Expand Sales

In a technical support activity demonstrating to Mexican bakers how to extend their product lines using U.S. wheat flour, USW Mexico City enlisted Baking

U.S. Wheat consultant Didier Rosada

Didier Rosada

Consultant Didier Rosada to conduct an in-depth, multi-day workshop for one of the top three baking groups in Mexico. The commercial baker selected their best 25 master bakers to learn how to produce internationally recognized sourdough, functional breads, and savory breads for retail bakery sales. Rosada also demonstrated how to standardize pre-fermentation and natural sourdough processes to optimize production efficiency, products consistency, and quality in every store.

Baking is changing in a good way,” Rosada said. “At my bakery, my process is as natural as possible, with long fermentation time, like it used to be done, to bring back the flavor profile of a good bread, its shelf life and texture, etc. And U.S. wheat classes are perfect for that. I am using a flour that is almost 100 percent hard red winter or sometimes combined with hard red spring wheat.”

Mexico is the leading importer of U.S. wheat in the world.

Healthier Wheat Foods for Older Taiwanese Consumers

Chinese wheat foods seminar

Well-known Taiwanese chefs demonstrated healthy Chinese wheat food products .

USW Taipei collaborated with the Department of Food and Beverage Management of Shih Chien University (USC) to conduct workshops on Chinese Wheat Food for the Elderly in October 2022. Chinese wheat foods are popular but a survey by the university indicated that more than 60% of elderly Taiwanese are not satisfied with the healthiness of the products.

USW Taipei Country Director Boyuan Chen and Technologist Wei-lin Chou invited well-known Taiwanese chefs to teach methods for making healthy handmade noodles, pan-fried stuffed buns, silk thread rolls, and pan-fried sweet potato pastry as well as steamed breads using U.S. wheat white flour and whole wheat flour. The 40 participants included teachers, students, and long-term elderly care community volunteers who made pan-fried stuffed buns for the elderly just after the workshop.

U.S. wheat imports by Taiwan have averaged 43.2 million bushels (1.18 million metric tons) of HRS, HRW and SW per year since 2017/18.

Continuing Milling Education Interrupted by COVID in Korea

USW Seoul had started to educate Food Technology undergraduate students at Won Kwang University about the fundamentals of U.S. wheat and flour milling technology in 2018. USW Seoul Food/Bakery Technologist Shin Hak (David) Oh resumed that effort this year. The goal is to give these future industry professionals a better understanding of why flour products from U.S. wheat make superior quality ingredients for Korean wheat foods. The early exposure to U.S. wheat and the value-added technical support from USW also builds future productive relationships.

On average the past five marketing years, South Korean millers have imported about 56.7 million bushels (1.54 million metric tons) of U.S. HRW, HRS, SW and SRW wheat per year.

USW Baking Technogist Shin Hak Oh lecturing to Korean food industry students on U.S. wheat and milling technology

USW Baking Technogist Shin Hak Oh lecturing to Korean food industry students on U.S. wheat and milling technology

U.S. Soft Wheat Best for Cookies, Cakes

USW Cape Town sent six participants from a large South African food company to a specialty soft wheat flour course at the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Ore., earlier in 2022. The course focused on cookies, crackers, and cakes made with flour from SRW and SW compared to flour from local and imported hard wheat that is used in South Africa. The participants also visited local grocery stores to gain insight into the many, varied U.S. products made from soft wheat flours.

USW Cape Town Regional Director Chad Weigand accompanied the food industry professionals to the course. He said participants were very impressed with the course results and comparative product quality, and he expected the company to begin testing products made with U.S. soft wheat flour.

Read more here about the South African wheat market.


The 2022 U.S. HRS crop recovered from last year’s historic drought. This crop has many positive attributes, including higher supply levels, strong grading characteristics, little to no DON and sound kernel characteristics. Overall protein is lower, but over half of the crop still has protein levels of 14% (12% mb) or higher. While dough strength shows weaker than last year, buyers will find a crop that compares well with the five-year average.  Buyers can buy with confidence, but diligent contract specifications are still the best way to get the quality demanded.

The Season in Review

PLANTING varied across the region, with a timely mid-April start and finish in western and southern areas, compared to a historically late start and sluggish progress across central and eastern areas. Excessive soil moisture pushed final planting into mid-June over a large area, about three weeks behind normal.

Crop EMERGENCE was hindered in parts of the region due to a prolonged cold, wet spring. By June, conditions shifted to warm and dry, benefiting the overly wet areas and later planted crops, but drier, western areas experienced some crop stress. The growing season was favorable with adequate moisture and no excessive heat, promoting strong yield potential, except for drier western areas.

HARVEST began later than normal, but by August, warm, dry conditions allowed for rapid progress and accelerated development of the later planted fields. Favorable conditions continued into September, allowing for a quick harvest; harvest in parts of the region extended into early October.

PRODUCTION of the U.S. HRS crop, at 12.1 MMT, is up 50%, following last year’s severe drought.

HRS map

2022 Crop Highlights

The average GRADE for the 2022 HRS harvest survey is U.S. No. 1 Northern Spring (NS); 97% of Eastern Region samples and 85% of Western Region samples grade U.S. No. 1.

Average TEST WEIGHT is 62.1 lb/bu (81.6 kg/hl), higher than 2021 and 5-year averages.

Overall, the crop has lower VITREOUS KERNEL LEVELS (DHV), averaging 74% compared to 80% in 2021 but higher than the 5-year average.  Average DHV is higher for Western samples at 88% but lower for Eastern samples at 59% due to lower protein and lack of stress during the growing season.

PROTEIN averages 14.3% (12% mb), below 2021 and 5-year averages due to higher yields in areas and less stress during the growing season.

DON levels were near zero due to minimal disease pressures.

Average 1000 KERNEL WEIGHT (TKW) is 30.4 g, above 2021 and similar to the 5-year average.

A dry harvest produced a very sound crop with an average FALLING NUMBER of 386 sec.

Pictured are scenes from the 2022 hard red spring harvest in South Dakota. This year's crop made a substantial recovery from last year's drought-affected crop.

Pictured are scenes from the 2022 hard red spring harvest in South Dakota. This year’s crop made a substantial recovery from last year’s drought-affected crop.

Flour and Dough Data

BUHLER LABORATORY MILL FLOUR YIELD averages 66.2%, slightly higher than 2021 but lower than the 5-year average. Lab mill settings are not adjusted to account for kernel parameter shifts between crop years and a wider variance in TKW and kernel size may have impacted milling yield.

Average FLOUR ASH is 0.49%, equal to 2021 but significantly lower than the 5-year average of 0.53%.

WET GLUTEN averages 34.5%, notably lower than 2021 and 5-year averages.

AMYLOGRAPH values average 724 BU, down from 2021 but up notably from the 5-year average.

DOUGH PROPERTIES suggest a weaker, more extensible crop as compared to last year. Dough property values are more in line with five-year average values.

The average LOAF VOLUME is 938 cc, lower than 2021 and 5-year averages; Western area averages 940 cc and Eastern area averages 937 cc.

Average BAKE ABSORPTION is 71.4%, significantly higher than 2021 and 5-year averages.

BREAD SCORES are similar to 2021 and the 5-year average.


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.”


A dramatic increase in demand for oilseeds could impact U.S. wheat production in coming years, with significantly more acres expected to be planted in soybeans destined for new and expanded crushing facilities.

Between 20 million and 25 million additional acres of soybeans will be needed to meet requirements of the renewable diesel industry, some analysts are predicting.

At the same time, global demand for wheat is also expected to rise, setting up dynamic competition for acreage in states where both crops are grown. For the U.S. wheat industry, the situation creates important questions: How much wheat acreage could potentially be lost to soybeans? Will lost acres impact the U.S.’ standing as the world’s most dependable wheat supplier? Can wheat and soybeans co-exist in a competitive environment?

This chart shows acreage planted in soybeans and wheat in 2022 in the country's top 10 soybean states, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

This chart shows total acreage planted in soybeans and total acreage planted in wheat in the country’s top 10 soybean states in 2022, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Where possible, farmers may adapt and double-crop more wheat and soybeans to maintain supplies of both crops. It is already a common practice in top soybean states like Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, where soft red winter wheat is the dominant class. But in soybean states that produce hard red winter and hard red spring wheat – Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, for example – allotting acreage is more complicated due to average rainfall and shorter growing seasons.

The ultimate question is if U.S. farmers will be able to meet the demand for both wheat and soybeans by doing what they have always done – figure out a way to do more with less.

Many Options, Limited Acres

Mike Krueger, a grain industry consultant with Lida Communications, put a spotlight on the emerging “competition for acreage” during last month’s U.S. Wheat Associates World Staff Conference.

While describing volatility in global wheat and grain markets due uncertain market conditions, Krueger noted a more predictable factor that will affect markets and decisions made by U.S farmers.

“Renewable diesel is projected to increase eight-fold by 2030 and significant investments of more than $2 billion are being put into new and expanded soybean processing plants in the U.S. right now,” Krueger explained. “The U.S. soybean crush will expand by 10%, or more. We are talking vast numbers, and while sunflower and canola should be big beneficiaries of renewable diesel, soybeans are certainly going to be in even higher demand.”

A boost of 20 million acres would catapult soybean and go a long way toward meeting the projected oilseeds demand.

But at what cost?

The U.S. has consistently ranked as one of the top five wheat producing countries in the world and one of the top three wheat exporting countries. Would a major shift in acreage affect U.S. production, thus its place as a supplier?

“We must remember there’s also a global demand for wheat, as well as corn, and we have to consider ongoing drought and weather patterns, not to mention political conflicts that are impacting grain production and supplies all over the world,” Krueger said. “All of this, all the things going on that affect global trade, will put major emphasis on overall crop production in the U.S. and the entire Northern Hemisphere. To be honest, no crop can afford to give up or lose acres.”

Can Double-cropping Help?

Higher prices caused by global demand for wheat and soybeans appears to be motivating more farmers in the Midwest to consider seeding soft red winter wheat in the fall and soybeans in the same field following wheat harvest.

About 40% of producers responding to a Purdue University Ag Economy Barometer survey in June indicated they have utilized a wheat and soybean double-crop rotation in the past. About 28% of those producers planned to increase the amount of cropland devoted to this rotation by seeding more wheat this fall followed by soybean plantings on the same acres in spring 2023.

Some analysts have predicted that renewable diesel demand in coming years will require the planting of at least 20 million additional acres of soybeans. This chart from USDA shows soybean acreage over the past decade.

Some analysts have predicted that renewable diesel demand in coming years will require the planting of at least 20 million additional acres of soybeans. This chart from USDA shows soybean acreage and harvest over the past decade.

Ultimately, the biggest factor behind whether farmers begin growing an extra crop of wheat is what price they can get for the crop.

“The shift toward increasing soft red winter wheat acreage is likely the result of the expected profitability improvement of the wheat and double-crop soybean rotation,” James Mintert and Michael Langemeier, authors of the Purdue survey, noted.

A move by the federal government earlier this year to increase the number of counties eligible for double-cropping insurance was a move aimed at boosting U.S. production of wheat and soybeans by reducing the risk for farmers who decide to take the double-crop route.

Producers are well-aware that there are drawbacks to double-cropping wheat and soybeans.

“Compared to single-crop soybeans, double-crop soybeans have a shorter growing season due to the delay in planting until the wheat is harvested, which often result in reduced yields,” said Scott Gerlt, Chief Economist for the American Soybean Association (ASA). “Despite this drawback, double-cropping does allow increased production.”

Wheat Demand to Grow

Despite questions about acreage and production, U.S. wheat continues to be in demand by international customers because of its consistent quality and reliability.

Krueger expects the demand will continue to expand.

“A primary reason is that global wheat supplies are likely to shrink due to a renewed focus on soybeans, and to a lesser extent, corn,” Krueger said. “Another factor favoring U.S. producers involves shipping and logistics limitations that hamper competing wheat-growing countries, including Russia and Ukraine.”

Effects from a third consecutive La Nina would further pressure global supplies.

“These things will undoubtedly lead to more export demand for wheat,” Krueger said. “Can the U.S. meet the demand? That is the puzzle that’s still being put together. Farmers make decisions every single planting season. They only have so many acres to work with.”




The 2022 Hard Spring Wheat Tour sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council ended July 28 with a very positive outlook for the U.S. hard red spring (HRS) and durum crop. The wheat is behind its normal development at this time of year because of late planting, but more than 50 industry participants determined a total weighted average HRS yield estimate of 49.1 bushels per acre (about 3.3 metric tons per hectare). The weighted average durum yield was 39 bu/a, or about 2.7 MT/ha.

Those estimates are the highest since the spring wheat tour estimated an average HRS yield of 49.9 bu/a in 2015. Following the drought-ravaged 2021 crop, the much-improved potential of this crop is welcome news to spring wheat farmers. Harvest is not expected to start for at least 3 weeks, depending on weather conditions but the industry is cautiously optimistic.

Photo of Tyllor Ledford on 2022 Spring Wheat Tour

Measuring for Yield Potential. USW Assistant Director, West Coast Office, Tyllor Ledford measures a section of a North Dakota HRS crop to start calculating yield potential on the 2022 Hard Spring Wheat tour. Photo by Jeff Beach, AgWeek.

Neal Fisher, Executive Director of the North Dakota Wheat Commission told Progressive Farmer/DTN that there is a lot of potential “if we do not have an early frost of rain at harvest, and we can keep diseases [and pests] at bay.” The spring wheat tour scouts did see evidence of grasshopper damage in the crop, pest pressure likely resulting from the drought last year.

Happy Customer

In the same article, a representative of a large U.S. snack food company said participating in the spring wheat tour helped him understand future [supply] risks. He added that he was happy with the yield potential and thought the wheat quality “was great.”

Buyers and Farmers Together

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Assistant Director, West Coast Office, Tyllor Ledford participated in the 2022 spring wheat tour. Dave Green, Executive Director, Wheat Quality Council, noted that having representatives from milling and wheat food processing industries participate with farmers and other stakeholders is a crucial part of the annual tours.

The real value of the tour said one farmer is connecting with buyers and end-users in the fields to show them how farmers manage their crops for the best potential yield and functional quality.