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An online training series developed by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) in the early days of the COVID pandemic continues to have success in its effort to educate South American bakers and millers about the value and quality of U.S. wheat.

Specifically, the Online Baking Certification program promotes baking methods and processes that highlight all six U.S. wheat classes. What is significant about the program is that it’s able to reach a large number of bakery and milling staff who otherwise would not be able to take part in educational workshops. The virtual format allows participants to study at their own pace before testing through a handful of modules to earn certification.

Funded by the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) – a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) program created in 2018 to help U.S. agricultural exporters enhance their work in international markets and mitigate other obstacles to trade – USW’s online trainings have made great strides toward reaching the goal of boosting awareness of U.S. wheat.

Bakers and millers in Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil have been getting a thorough introduction to U.S. wheat and are learning how they can utilize it to improve the quality of breads and other baked goods.

The goal for U.S. wheat is ambitious yet simple: Sharing ways to improve baked products made with U.S. wheat could result in increased consumption in South America, which could lead to more customers for South America’s bakeries.

It could also potentially lead to a greater demand for U.S. wheat.

Putting U.S. Wheat ‘Top of Mind’

USW's Online Baking Certification program build's upon an effort to create awareness of U.S. wheat in South America. Pictured here is an in-person workshop conducted in USW's Santiago office in 2019, prior to the COVID pandemic.

USW’s Online Baking Certification program builds upon an ongoing effort to create awareness of U.S. wheat’s value and quality in South America. Pictured here is an in-person workshop conducted in USW’s Santiago office in 2019, prior to the COVID pandemic.

Miguel Galdos, USW’s regional director in South America, says the goal of the Online Baking Certification program is to create better awareness of U.S. wheat.

“We want U.S. wheat to be top of mind for more bakers in the region, as well as for the technical staff at the milling companies,” he said. “We want to place a higher emphasis on reaching bakers

and technical people to perhaps give them a voice when it comes to wheat purchasing decisions.”

The fact that both bakers and milling staff are registering for the online course, too, is a sign that many in the industry want to take advantage of the opportunity to get experience working with U.S. wheat.

USW, the wheat industry’s export market development organization, works with wheat buyers, millers, bakers, food processors and government officials in more than 100 countries to promote the reliability and value of the six U.S. wheat classes. The new emphasis on creating awareness in South America and educate the people who work directly with wheat and wheat flour inside of bakeries is strategic.

Creating awareness – putting U.S. wheat top of mind of bakers – opens all kinds of opportunities.

“The key is that once they learn one aspect of U.S. wheat’s quality, they want to see what else there is to learn,” explained Galdos. “In this program, they must test out of one module to be able to move on to the next. Before earning the certification, they must complete a two-day practical course in person. Soon, after moving through the program, they are an expert on our product. At that point, U.S. wheat has developed a customer.”

Virtual Training has Become Commonplace

The virtual baking training includes six different modules that allow bakers and milling staff to progress at their own pace. Participants must pass a module to move on to the next, assuring they are exposed to all of U.S. wheat's positive attributes.

The Online Baking Certification program includes six different modules that allow bakers and milling staff to progress at their own pace. Participants must pass one module to move on to the next, assuring they are exposed to all of U.S. wheat’s many positive attributes.

Launched in October 2020 as an alternative to in-person training workshops during the height of the COVID pandemic, the Online Baking Certification program has grown rapidly. USW recently added a Portuguese version to the original Spanish version to attract more Brazilian participation. USW also has plans to add a master-level course in the near-future.

The current program has registered nearly 5,500 students in two years. Thanks to a partnership between U.S, Wheat Associates, the Brazilian Wheat Industry Association and the Brazilian Bakery and Confectionery Industry Association, further growth is expected.

The six South American countries targeted by USW are the six that purchase U.S. wheat.

“The biggest wheat buyer in Colombia has had 15 staff members go through the whole program and earn certification,” said Galdos. “Chile has been another active participant, so we are seeing interest from a good portion of the region. Brazil is promising. We have met with the millers and bakers’ associations and U.S. Wheat Associates is going to be recognized by those associations at an upcoming event.”

The birth of the program came by necessity after in-person trainings and workshops were eliminated because of COVID. By March 2020, USW’s staff in Santiago, Chile, were putting together educational materials to complete the online bakery course – courses featuring baking theory, video instruction and assessment platforms were assembled. USW Baking Consultant Didier Rosada played a key role in the production of baking videos for the modules, which were finished in May 2020 and then sent to selected baking staff around the region for testing.

Opportunity for a Competitive Edge

Those who have completed USW’s Online Baking Certification are reporting they gained greater knowledge of traditional baking methods that work well with U.S. wheat.

Miguel Galdos, USW regional director in South America

Miguel Galdos, USW regional director in South America

Galdos emphasized that the online courses provide U.S. wheat with an advantage over competing wheat growing and exporting countries.

One example is the value of U.S. hard red winter wheat compared to Canadian wheat.

“One thing we stress to the bakers in South America is that many of the products they are baking do not require Canadian wheat that is higher in protein but more expensive,” Galdos said. “U.S. hard red winter wheat is a better option, and the content in the online baking courses teach them why. We show them how to bake with it. The problem is that the bakers are not trained. We want more bakers in the region exposed to the value and quality of U.S. wheat and how using it can benefit their products and their businesses.”

Along with putting U.S. wheat top of mind for South American bakers, Galdos pointed out a valuable additional benefit to USW’s online baking program.

“Through this certification process we are working with bakeries, collaborating with millers, collaborating with the people who either are or could be buying and using U.S. wheat,” he said. “We are educating them and creating awareness for U.S. wheat. At the same time, we are building relationships.”

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On behalf of the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Transportation Working Group, we* appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the draft Lower Snake River Dams Benefit Replacement Report.

The draft report raises serious concerns among U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and its member states. The USW Transportation Working Group (TWG) questions many of the baseline assumptions argued in the draft report. The draft is incomplete because many of the key variables cannot be quantified. The Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) provide a critical need that moves U.S.-grown wheat to high-value markets around the world. Breaching the dams would have serious economic consequences for producers and grain handlers. Removing the dams also runs counter to achieving climate-friendly goals.

Barging Benefits

USW strongly supports the sustainability and reliability of wheat transportation by barge. The Columbia Snake River System is an essential part of a logistical web that moves over half of all U.S. wheat exports to more than 20 Pacific Rim countries and encompasses some of the largest U.S. wheat buyers in the world. The Snake River moves more than 10% of all wheat that is exported from the United States. Because of the cost savings conveyed by barging grain and examples used in the draft report, we can conclude that farmers save considerably by using the waterway in place of rail or truck and are able to pass on savings to consumers.

Barge loading wheat to move through Lower Snake River Dams and down the Columbia River to export elevators.

The Lower Snake River Dams provide critical needs for wheat farmers, grain handlers, merchandisers, and millers. The draft report clearly outlines the benefits enjoyed by grain handlers, “barging is the lowest-cost option (per ton-mile) for wheat shipping, an additional benefit for Pacific Northwest producers, as they operate on narrow cost margins and use barging to maximize their profit per bushel.” Shifting the current volume of wheat and other grains moving via barge on the LSRD over to rail or truck is not a viable and straightforward solution as portions of the draft study imply. Rail and truck cost significantly more on a per bushel basis, and trucks have distance limitations.

Breaching Increases Transportation Costs

An excerpt from the draft report outlines the literal costs to farmers: “One of the most significant transportation impacts connected with LSRD breaching is shipping costs. Several studies cite shipping prices during scheduled lock outages for maintenance between December 2010 and March 2011 and found that during the outage, over 90% of the grain by volume was shipped by rail and that shippers experienced a nearly 40% increase in shipping and storage costs.” This example shows that railroads will use their power to raise rates when other alternatives, like the river system, are unavailable.

The Port of Lewiston is the most inland port in the U.S, Pacific Northwest. Its placement on the Snake River allows farmers in Idaho and other states to barge their wheat efficiently and affordably. The U.S. competes with six other primary wheat-exporting countries. According to the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the United States is the third-largest wheat exporter in the world. However, for the U.S. to remain competitive with other wheat exporting nations, export prices must remain competitive. Inland transportation costs are a primary factor in determining the competitiveness of U.S. wheat. Using barges to ship grain is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways that U.S. wheat farmers stay competitive.

Rail Cannot Make Up Difference

All wheat production zones in the U.S. would be impacted, not just those in close proximity to the Lower Snake River Dams system. The U.S. rail system has some severe issues with service and reliability, and in recent years, tariff costs to move wheat have steadily increased. Adding more volume to the system would raise costs for all farmers and lead to a decline in service for a significant portion of all U.S. wheat producers. This would directly impact U.S. wheat’s global competitiveness as an export market.

Transporting wheat by barge is an environmentally friendly alternative to rail and truck hauling. One four-barge tow can move as much grain as 144 rail cars or 538 semi-trucks. Removing the dams would not only remove clean hydroelectricity but would mandate more significant carbon emissions as grain handlers are forced to rely on railroads and semi-trucks for long-haul delivery to export facilities in Portland and elsewhere.

Map of the Columbia Snake River System from Pacific Northwest Waterways Association

Eight Steps Down. Lock and dam systems on the Columbia Snake River System allow barges to efficiently and safely navigate the 222-meter elevation change from Lewiston, Idaho, to export elevators as far west as Longview, Wash.

More Competition Not Less

The draft report provides no sincere considerations for alternative freight, and what suggestions it does make are unrealistic. While railroads and trucks compete with barge companies to move grain, farmers and grain handlers would be held captive without barges as an alternative.

USW supports the Columbia Snake River System and will continue to emphasize its importance in serving wheat buyers worldwide. Breaching of the dams on the Lower Snake River would have a devastating economic impact on wheat production and market competitiveness, not just in the Pacific Northwest Region, but nationally.

*This article represents public comments by the USW Transportation Working Group to the Lower Snake River Dams Benefit Replacement Report submitted July 11, 2022, by working group co-chairs Jim Peterson, Policy and Marketing Director, North Dakota Wheat Commission, and Charlie Vogel, Executive Director, Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council.

 

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The anxiously awaited Hard Winter Wheat Tour sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council that ended May 19, confirmed that persistent drought will cut the yield potential of the 2022 Kansas wheat crop to its lowest level since 2018. The 83 participants scouting the crop estimated the average yield potential at 39.7 bushels per acre (52.71 kilograms per hectoliter) compared to the average tour estimate of 47.4 bu/ac (62.66 kg/hl) between 2016 and 2021 (there was no tour in 2020).

Still, the hard red winter (HRW) and hard white (HW) crop potential is quite variable across Kansas. The photos taken by participants shared here show the wide range of crop conditions. Timely precipitation and cropping patterns made a significant difference, even in extremely dry southwestern Kansas. Jennifer Latzke, editor of Kansas Farmer magazine, reported this observation from the tour on May 18.

The tour participants also estimated total production from the scouted area at 261 million bushels. That is less than USDA’s most recent estimate of Kansas wheat production, even though the tour yield estimate was slightly higher than USDA’s estimate of 39.0 bu/ac.

Higher Abandonment

“The participants agreed that there will be more fields abandoned than USDA has estimated,” said U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Market Analyst Michael Anderson. USW Assistant Director, West Coast Office, Tyllor Ledford, joined Anderson as tour scouts this year.

Photo shows T. Ledford in a field estimating Kansas wheat crop.

USW Assistant Director, West Coast Office, Tyllor Ledford scouted a Rooks County, Kansas, wheat field on May 17, 2022, the first day of the Hard Winter Wheat tour.

“Some fields have wheat plants that are so short, they likely will not be, or cannot be, harvested,” Anderson said. “The more experienced participants had a keen sense that making an insurance claim would be the best decision for those fields with questionable potential. I have to say, however, that during the tour, our group saw only isolated fields like that.”

Neighboring Crops Also Stressed

Kansas Wheat’s report from the last day of the tour included the following update on crop conditions in Nebraska, Colorado and Oklahoma.

Dry wheat field from Pratt County showing drought in Kansas Wheat Crop

Photo from a #wheattour2022 Tweet on May 18, 2022.

The USDA estimate for the Nebraska wheat crop is ­­36.9 million bushels, down from 41.2 million in 2021. The estimated yield average is 41 bu/ac. USDA expects the Colorado crop at 49.6 million bushels, down from 69.6 million bushels last year. However, Colorado Wheat Executive Director Brad Erker estimated the state’s crop at 40.1 million bushels, based on a yield of 28.6 bu/ac, with a 30% abandonment rate. Oklahoma reported that the state’s production is estimated at 60 million bushels, down from 115 million bushels last year, with 25 bu/ac yield.

This Week’s Snapshot

The Wheat Quality Council (WQC) is a coordinated effort by breeders, producers and processors to improve wheat and flour quality. WQC executive director Dave Green said that this tour and a Hard Spring Wheat tour scheduled later this year are important to make connections within the wheat industry. He said another goal is to “describe the wheat as well as we can at the current point in time, not knowing what will happen over the next few weeks.”

Harvest is still more than three weeks away. Any potential rain, or lack of it, to come will affect final yields. In addition, even very thin fields may be harvested. As Kansas Farmer editor Latzke wrote: “At $13 per bushel, every bushel … counts.”

Domestic and overseas wheat buyers can continue to monitor 2021 progress for most U.S. wheat classes by subscribing to the USW Harvest Report posted on the website every Friday.

 

Close up of super dry soil and wheat in a field showing drought in Kansas wheat crop

The obvious effects of the deep drought are clear in this Tweet on May 18 from Clay Patton.

 

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With wheat now firmly among the world’s top media stories, attention this week turns to Kansas and the annual Wheat Quality Council Hard Winter Wheat Tour. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Market Analyst Michael Anderson and Assistant Director, West Coast Office, Tyllor Ledford, will join more than 80 stakeholders scouting fields across Kansas, far southern Nebraska and far northern Oklahoma to estimate average yield and production.

Bullish USDA Report

USDA provided a preview on May 12 with a very bullish 2022/23 wheat outlook in its May World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report. Factoring in extremely dry conditions in the southern Plains, USDA estimated hard red winter (HRW) production at 16.1 million metric tons (MMT), down 21% from production in 2021. The farmer survey USDA uses to make its estimates suggested that 28% of winter wheat seeded in fall 2021 – mostly HRW and hard white – will be abandoned.

The Kansas Wheat Commission reported on May 9 that very little wheat would make it to harvest in several southwest Kansas counties. Throughout the winter, drought and vicious winds took their toll on the wheat and the soil. The photo at the top of this page from Kansas Wheat shows how farmers in that area have tried to protect their wheat from the dry winds with “chisel plowing” that lifts up soil into rows next to the wheat.

Map from NASS showing change in wheat yields by state from 2021 to 2022

Yields Down in HRW Region. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates lower HRW production in key states in 2022 compared to 2021 but a return to trend yields in the northern Plains and Pacific Northwest as of May 12, 2022.

Will the Hard Winter Wheat Tour see some measure of hope for a better-than-expected crop? After widespread rain in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and parts of Oklahoma the week of May 1, USDA’s May 9 estimate of wheat crop conditions in Kansas ticked up 3 points to 28% good or excellent. However, the week’s weather turned hot and dry again.

Some Decent Wheat

Ahead of the tour, Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin told his board that “there will be some decent wheat in the first part of the tour, but the scouts will witness the stressed, poorer conditions as they proceed westward.” He added that heat, low humidity and winds the week of May 9 likely pushed wheat rapidly toward maturity.

Colorado Wheat Director of Communications and Policy Madison Andersen reported to the state’s wheat farmers that “despite last week’s (May 2) rain, crop conditions remained unchanged this week (May 9). This [fact] further drives home the point that what remains of Colorado’s wheat crop is living on borrowed time. Even the ‘good’ wheat needs rain soon and the forecast is not encouraging.”

Photo by Colorado Wheat shows variable wheat conditions.

Decent Wheat. A photo taken May 13 by Colorado Wheat CEO Brad Erker in northeast Colorado’s Morgan County shows what he called “decent wheat” but with inconsistent stands.

Follow the Tour

The annual Hard Winter Wheat Tour will help make the picture of the 2022 U.S. HRW crop clearer. Along with the world, follow the tour in real time by checking #wheattour22 on Twitter. And keep up-to-date on the harvest, which could start soon in southern Texas, with the weekly USW Harvest Report posted for the first time this season on May 13, 2022. Subscribe to have the report sent directly to your email inbox here.

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While the Russia-Ukraine conflict remains the biggest driver of wheat futures prices, U.S. winter wheat in drought conditions across the Plains is becoming an increasingly bullish factor. This latest concern is likely to overshadow USDA’s recent estimate for a slight increase in winter wheat acres with potentially serious implications for supplies heading into summer.

On Tuesday,  Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT)  soft red winter (SRW) wheat futures reached their highest level since March 23, while Kansas City Board of Trade (KCBT) were up nearly $0.21 Tuesday and up 50% since the start of the year. The Washington Post this week reported that winter wheat conditions are the poorest in more than two decades for this early in the growing season.

Drought Monitor

Dry weather is not unique in the Plains states, but some years are worse than others. The current USDA drought monitor data indicates that most hard red winter (HRW) wheat is in drought. USDA reported just 32% of winter wheat is in good or excellent condition. That is a two-point improvement compared to last week but far from the 53% good or excellent rating at this time last year. The last time crop conditions were at this level so early was in 1996. According to USDA, total wheat yields that year were 2.41 MT/HA, 24% behind 2021/22, a year that also saw substantial wheat in drought.

USDA map showing where U.S. winter wheat in drought is located

Too Much Wheat in Drought. Of the 69% of winter wheat production USDA shows growing under drought conditions, almost all the 2022/23 HRW wheat crop is struggling in dry top- and subsoil.

Tough Conditions

Growing conditions for the 2022/23 HRW crop have been tough from the start. Last fall, plantings were sown in very dry soil, and precipitation was light. Snowfall was limited, and now above average temperatures with limited rainfall have only added to the stress. Weather forecasts point to more dry weather ahead.

Kansas, the leading HRW producing state, is dry. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports severe drought in the western half of the state. However, Kansas Wheat published a recent story about varied HRW conditions, perhaps unsurprising for a state that is 400 miles (644 kilometers) long. Nevertheless, all the farmers agreed that rain is needed.

State-by-State

To the west of Kansas, conditions are also dry and windy in Colorado. High winds rob the soil of moisture, exacerbating a lack of rainfall. Topsoil moisture conditions were rated 16% very short, while subsoil moisture was rated 17% very short across the region. Both were unchanged from the week before. Nebraska’s wheat conditions are above the national average, with 32% rated good or excellent and 46% rated fair. Soil moisture is short for the state, but decent moisture in the fall has provided some relief. In South Dakota, where winter wheat planting is 4% higher than last year, conditions are rated 58% fair and 22% good to excellent. Given the overall winter wheat conditions, the crop in South Dakota looks strong.  Montana also looks good compared to the average. Wheat rated fair is 62%, while 15% is good to excellent. But like so much of the winter wheat growing area, soil moisture is poor. Most of the state is either in extreme drought or severe drought.

In Oklahoma, the second largest winter wheat producing state after Kansas, conditions improved week-over-week, with 29% of HRW rated good or excellent, up 6 points from a week ago. Texas has the most wheat in drought, with 56% of the statewide crop rated very poor. Long-term drought conditions have impacted the growth of this year’s crop. One Texas Farm Bureau member noted that some farm areas hadn’t seen measurable rainfall at all this calendar year.

April Showers Needed

April is critical for HRW development, and timely rain is needed. And while conditions are not ideal right now, farmers as ever remain optimistic.

You can follow weekly updates on the HRW crop by reading the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Price Report or the weekly USDA crop progress publication. In May, USW will begin publishing weekly Harvest Reports for the 2022 U.S. wheat crop.

By Michael Anderson, USW Market Analyst

 

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In the increasingly competitive global wheat market, it is important to review the advantages that U.S. wheat delivers to millers and bakers. This post examines the advantages that hard red winter wheat brings to the market.


Let us start with the value that the largest wheat class, hard red winter (HRW) wheat, brings to the global market. With annual average production over the last five years of 22.64 million metric tons (MMT) or more than 831 million bushels, U.S. HRW accounts for more than 41 percent of the total wheat produced in the United States.

Milling Advantages

Mills that only use one class of wheat in their grist are few and far between. Blending classes of wheat from different origins is a standard and crucial for the mill and its customers. Blending adds consistent quality in mill operation and, in the resulting flour products, to the wheat foods processor. It helps the mill produce the most valuable flour at a lower cost, and, of course, blending is needed to produce the range of flour products for specific end uses.

For these reasons, the quantity and quality of U.S. HRW produced annually create an optimal foundation for any wheat procurement strategy. From the miller’s perspective, U.S. HRW brings consistency to the grist. For a mill to perform optimally, it needs to be well-balanced. Constantly changing mill grist creates a milling environment that is difficult to keep balanced. A balanced mill optimizes flour extraction and helps maximize milling efficiency. Maintaining U.S. HRW as the foundation of the mill grist allows the miller to blend local wheat, other U.S. wheat classes, or wheat from other origins as cost advantages or product differentiation opportunities develop in the market.

Baking Advantages

U.S. HRW is available in a wide range of protein levels, which is excellent for making a variety of wheat foods alone or blended with flour from other classes to optimize performance and flour cost. It is also suitable for producing an all-purpose flour that can be used in a wide range of products. Medium protein flour from HRW can be used for several types of yeast and flatbreads, and noodles. Low protein HRW flour can be used in a blend with soft white (SW) or soft red winter (SRW) to make some types of biscuits (cookies). Higher protein HRW can be used for pizza crust, artisan bread, or non-durum pasta as a 100 percent grist or blended with high protein hard red spring (HRS) wheat to reduce wheat cost and optimize the quality characteristics of the finished products.

USW technical colleagues evaluate hard red winter flour performance in bread

Evaluating Hard Red Winter Flour Performance. USW technical experts from around the world visited the United States in March 2022 to update their already strong knowledge of U.S. wheat performance. Here, at the Wheat Marketing Center, Portland, Ore., evaluating bread quality made with flour from hard red winter and other U.S. wheat classes are (L-R): Adrian Redondo, USW Manila; David Oh, USW Seoul; Andres Saturno, USW Santiago; Peter Lloyd, USW Casablanca; Roy Chung, USW Singapore; Tarik Gahi, USW Casablanca; Bon Lee, Wheat Marketing Center (foreground); Casey Chumrau, Idaho Wheat Commission (background).

In the end, the greatest benefit to the baker is the same as the miller: consistency when used as the sole wheat type or used in a blend to improve the baking characteristics, such as dough stability or water absorption, of local wheat or wheat from another origin. U.S. HRW is always available to the market and provides the most reliable foundation for the formulation of nearly any wheat-based product.

U.S. Wheat Advantages

As we highlight each specific class in this series, let us not forget the advantages that all U.S. wheat classes bring to the market. First, and perhaps the most important, is consistency in quality and supply. Although each new crop year brings different challenges and opportunities, U.S. wheat is always available to the global market. Second, U.S. wheat delivers variety. Wheat is a raw material manufactured into a bakery ingredient, flour. The flour made from each unique class of U.S. wheat brings value to the market in the unique quality characteristics to make a variety of baked goods and noodles.

Each region, country and culture have wheat-based food products that are uniquely their own. With six distinct wheat classes, the United States has the right wheat class to help deliver the optimal quality and value for every variety of product on the market.

Learn more about the six classes of U.S. wheat here or leave a question in the U.S. Wheat Associates’ “Ask The Expert” section.

By Mark Fowler, USW Vice President of Global Technical Services


Read more about other U.S. wheat classes in this series.

Hard Red Spring
Hard White
Soft White
Soft Red Winter
Durum

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Last week, USDA released three reports giving some indication of what may be ahead for the 2022 global wheat market. Those USDA reports were the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, the quarterly Grain Stocks report, and the annual Winter Wheat Seedings report.

Considering all three reports, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) notes that the latest WASDE report showed few unexpected changes to the worldwide balance sheet of wheat. Some upward revisions were made in Argentina and the EU. Still, the reports forecast global consumption far higher than production. The Grain Stocks report reflected the significant drop in total 2021/22 U.S. wheat production. Predictably, U.S. farmers seeded more winter wheat for a second year in a row.

In fact, after winter wheat plantings fell to their lowest level in more than a century in 2020/21, U.S. winter wheat seeded area for marketing year 2022/23 has increased for the second year in a row, up 2% from 2021 and 13% compared to 2020 reported the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in their annual Winter Wheat Seedings report released Jan. 12, 2022. Winter wheat seeded acres are the most they have been since 2016/17.

Bar graph showing annual U.S. winter wheat seeded area indicates an increase over the past two years to illustrate USDA Reports story.

According to recent USDA reports, U.S. farmers are responding to increased global demand and lower U.S. stocks by seeding more winter wheat in 2022.

The Winter Wheat Seedings report showed farmers planted 23.8 million acres (9.6 million hectares) of hard red winter (HRW). This report is up 1% from 2021, led by Kansas, up 3%, and Texas, up 2%. Notable drops in seeded area came in Colorado, down 2%, and New Mexico down 11%.

The quarterly USDA Grain Stocks report confirmed all U.S. wheat in storage, both on and off farm, was down 18% compared to a year ago, while disappearance was down 16% compared to the year before. Analysts expect ending stocks for the 2021/22 marketing year to be the smallest since 2013/14 at 628 million bushels (17.09/MMT).

Price Signals

Increased cash price this year has no doubt played a role in farmer decisions to seed more HRW acres. Kansas Wheat Commission CEO Justin Gilpin noted higher HRW prices as one reason for a second consecutive year of higher wheat plantings. Year-over-year prices for HRW at 12% protein (12% moisture basis) are up 24%.

Soft red winter (SRW) farmers have also taken advantage of strong pricing and increased export demand to plant more SRW acres. Estimates of SRW for the 2022/23 marketing year are 7.07 million acres (2.86 million hectares), 6% higher than last year. Increased acres are largest in Missouri, up 38%, North Carolina is up 31% and Ohio up 21%. USDA reported decreases in Maryland, down 16%, and Michigan, down 23%. The 2021/22 SRW export pace is 50% ahead of last year’s pace year-to-date.

Estimated white winter wheat (soft white and hard white) are 3.56 million acres (1.44 million hectares). This estimate is up 2% from 2021.

Desert Durum® seeded area in California and Arizona of 90,000 acres (36,421 hectares) is up 15% compared to last year and 20% compared to 2020.

Drought Lingers in the Plains

In the monthly “Wheat Outlook” report published by the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the USDA, analysts reported that major HRW producing states, mostly concentrated in the Plains states, saw conditions for winter wheat degrade since November but noted that spring conditions are more influential on production numbers. Kansas’s Gilpin noted “attention has turned to expanding drought ratings across HRW regions and potentially yield and production impacts. Dry conditions and higher input costs both are concerns.”

NOAA map shows where U.S. wheat production areas overlap with drought conditions to supplement USDA reports article.

By Michael Anderson, USW Market Analyst

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Variable growing conditions greatly influenced the 2021 hard red winter (HRW) wheat crop. In areas with favorable growing conditions, high yields resulted in lower protein but excellent kernel characteristics. However, regional swings in temperature and drought led to high protein, lower yields and smaller kernels.

As a result, the overall crop has generally good kernel characteristics with flour, dough and bake attributes equal to or better than last year and many of the 5-year averages. The loaf volumes achieved indicate there is sufficient protein quality to make pan bread that easily exceeds the U.S. quality target for loaf volume, with dough mix times and stabilities that are slightly greater than the 5-year average.

This crop meets or exceeds typical HRW contract specifications and should provide high value to customers.

Weather and Harvest

Planted area for the 2021 hard red winter crop recovered from last year’s historic lows with an estimated 9.6 million hectares (23.6 million acres) seeded in fall 2020, a 10% increase over last year.

Growing conditions varied among the HRW production regions. Eastern areas of the Southern and Central Great Plains experienced favorable growing conditions resulting in high yields, very good kernel characteristics, but lower protein. While western areas of the Southern and Central Plains experienced drought and record freeze events resulting in lower yields and smaller kernels, but higher protein. The Northern Great Plains and PNW suffered historic drought conditions that hurt yield and kernel characteristics.

Production of the 2021 HRW crop is estimated to be 20.4 million metric tons (MMT), up from 17.93 MMT in 2020 and above the 5-year average of 20.8 MMT.

With very few exceptions, disease and insect pressure were not major issues for the 2021 HRW crop.

2021 map of hard red winter wheat production and sampling

2021 U.S. Hard Red Winter harvest in Oklahoma

The Daniel Crossley Farm near Okarche, Okla., was a few days into the HRW wheat harvest on June 15, 2021. Custom harvester SJS Farms, Lorreto, Minn., provided the equipment and manpower to bring in the crop. Photo by Todd Johnson, Communications Specialist, Oklahoma State University.

2021 Crop Highlights

  • The Composite average grade for the 2021 hard red winter harvest survey is U.S. No. 1 HRW. Despite challenging growing conditions in some regions, overall, 84% of Composite, 85% of Gulf-tributary and 83% of PNW-tributary samples graded U.S. No. 2 or better.
  • Test weight Composite average is 79.5 kg/hl (60.4 lb/bu), indicative of sound wheat.
  • Protein content distribution varies by growing region; Composite average is 11.9% (12% mb), equal to last year but below the 5-year average.
  • Composite averages for dockage (0.5%), total defects (1.7%), and foreign materials (0.3%) are above 2020 and 5-year averages.
  • Shrunken and broken kernels (0.8 %), values reflect the environmental challenges for this year’s crop.
  • Wheat falling number Composite average is 372 sec, indicative of sound wheat.
  • The Buhler lab mill extraction Composite average is 74.9%, above last year but below the 5-year average.
  • Flour ash Composite average of 0.50% (14% mb) is comparable to last year and 5-year averages.
  • Farinograph peak and stability times of 5.1 and 9.3 min, respectively, are shorter than last year but higher than the 5-year average.
  • Dough properties suggest that this crop has similar resistance to extension (tenacity) to both last year and the 5-year average, but slightly weaker dough strength (Alveograph W value) compared to last year and the 5-year average. Dough extensibility was significantly lower than last year but similar to the 5-year average.
  • Average bake absorption is 62.1%, below last year but comparable to the 5-year average.
  • Average loaf volume of 877 cc is well above last year and 5-year averages, indicative of acceptable baking quality.

Read more about the 2021 U.S. hard red winter wheat crop here and the full regional report here.

2021 Crop Quality Data on Other U.S. Wheat Classes

Hard Red Spring
Soft White
Soft Red Winter
Northern Durum
Desert Durum® And California Hard Red Winter
Hard White

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Desert Durum ® is a registered certification mark of the Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council and the California Wheat Commission, which authorize its use only to designate durum grown under irrigation in the desert valleys and lowlands of Arizona and California.

Desert Durum ® can be produced and delivered “identity preserved” to domestic and export markets, which allows customers to purchase grain with quality traits specific to their processing needs. Annual requirements can be pre-contracted with grain merchandisers ahead of the fall-winter planting season for harvest in late May through early July. Varietal identity is maintained by experienced growers planting certified seed and merchandisers who store and ship according to customers’ preferred delivery schedules.

Desert Durum ® exhibits consistently large kernels and low moisture, traits that contribute to efficient transportation costs and high extraction rates. The 2021 crop will deliver the valuable milling, semolina and pasta quality traits that customers have learned to expect and appreciate.

Production

Desert Durum ® Production acreage in 2021 was lower than 2020. According to USDA, yields were 2.61 tons/acre, and quality was uniformly good. Powell was the most widely grown variety in California and Arizona. Alberto was the second most grown durum variety.

2021 Crop Quality Highlights

  • The overall grade sample average for the 2021 Desert Durum ® harvest survey is U.S. No. 1 Hard Amber Durum (HAD).
  • Test weight is indicative of sound wheat and a uniform crop with an average of 83.2 kg/hl (63.9 lb/bu).
  • Average Damaged kernels are 0% and Total defects are 0.6%.
  • The average Vitreous kernel (HVAC) content is 98.7%, a high average typical of Desert Durum ®.
  • Wheat protein content average is 13.9% (12% mb), consistent with the 5-year average.
  • Kernel moisture content is low at 7.5%, a characteristic of Desert Durum ®.
  • The semolina b* value is 32.5, similar to last year’s 32.7
  • Wet gluten average is 36.1% and Gluten index average is 69.
  • Mixograph score is 7.0 and alveograph W value is 191 (10-4 J).
  • Spaghetti color b* value is 44 and color SCORE is 10.1, higher than last year and the 5-year average.
  • Spaghetti cooked firmness average is 7.2, similar to last year and above the 5-year average

For more information on 2021 Desert Durum ® crop quality, review the detailed report on the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) website.

2021 California Hard Red Winter Wheat

California’s wheat growing regions are defined by climate, value of alternative crops and distinct differences in variety selection. Most California hard wheat is planted from October to January and harvested in June and July. With the strong demand for new crop wheat in the domestic marketplace, importers are encouraged to express their interest in purchasing California wheat in early spring.

California hard wheat varieties are known for their low moisture and large and uniform kernel size. Because wheat is predominantly grown under irrigation, growers achieve high yields and consistent quality. Overall, the majority of the 2021 crop has medium protein. Consistent with other years, the 2021 crop has low moisture, high flour extraction and strong baking performance — all of which make California wheat suitable for blending.

Weather and Production

California had below average rainfall in 2020/21, and in wheat growing regions rainfall was just over 50% of the 10-year average. Drought in the Sacramento Valley and the northern San Joaquin Valley was even more pronounced; this negatively affected stand establishment and early growth and was compounded by predation of stands by migratory geese. Disease incidence was relatively low; however, stripe rust was reported in the Delta region and the northern San Joaquin Valley. Weather during grain filling was dry and average-to-cooler-than-average in much of the state. Overall, yields were average or below average.

2021 Crop Quality Highlights

  • The overall grade sample average collected for the 2021 California HRW harvest survey is U.S. No. 1 HRW.
  • Test weight averages are indicative of sound wheat and a uniform crop with a medium protein average of 83.2 kg/hl (63.3 lb/bu) and high protein average of 81.7 kg/hl (62.1 lb/bu).
  • Kernel moisture content is low with medium protein at 9.6% and high protein at 9.7%.
  • The average wheat falling number for medium and high protein was 344 seconds and 369 seconds, respectively.
  • Laboratory mill flour extraction for medium protein was 68.2% and high protein was 66.6%.
  • This crop demonstrates excellent baking performance with an average loaf volume or medium protein at 900 cc and high protein at 945 cc.

For more information on 2021 California hard red winter and hard white crop quality, review the detailed report on the USW website.

2021 Crop Quality Data on Other U.S. Wheat Classes

Hard Red Spring
Soft White
Hard Red Winter
Soft Red Winter
Northern Durum
Hard White

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Originally published by Kansas Wheat. Excerpts reprinted with permission.

About 45 people from 13 U.S. states traveled on six routes across Kansas May 18 to 20, stopping at wheat fields along the routes to assess crop conditions and yield potential, as part of the 2021 Hard Winter Wheat Tour sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council.

What they found is perhaps a more productive crop than many had anticipated. The tour estimated an average yield potential of 58.1 bushels per acre, equal to 76.49 kilograms per hectoliter or 3.91 metric tons per hectare.

While an estimated 7.3 million acres of wheat were planted in the fall, the Kansas wheat crop varies in condition based on planting date and amount of moisture received. What Mother Nature has planned for the rest of the wheat crop year remains to be seen (harvest is likely 4 to 7 weeks away), but the tour captures a moment in time for the yield potential for fields across the state.

Calculating Yield in Muddy Boots

Every tour participant makes yield calculations at each stop based on three different area samplings per field. These individual estimates are averaged with the rest of their route mates and eventually added to a formula that produces a final yield estimate for the areas along the routes. The WQC held the hard winter wheat tour about 3 weeks later in May this year and more than half the fields were headed out. That allowed use of a different yield potential calculation than if the fields had not yet headed.

Recent rains across the central and southern Plains that gave tour scouts muddy boots helped improve crop conditions, especially for early seeded crops, and in northern and central Kansas that had not been stressed by dry conditions.

Day 1

On May 18, tour scouts made ­­­171 stops at wheat fields across north central, central and northwest Kansas, and into southern counties in Nebraska. The calculated yield average that day was 59.2 bushels per acre, which was 12.3 bushels higher than the yield of 46.9 bushels per acre from the same routes in 2019.

Calculating yield potential at the 2021 hard winter wheat tour

A scout in the 2021 Hard Winter Wheat Tour takes a measurement that will be used to help calculate the yield potential of this Kansas wheat field.

Day 2

The hard winter wheat tour continued May 19 with six routes covering western, southwest and south-central Kansas as well as some northern Oklahoma counties. The scouts made 164 stops in wet fields from rain received over the past several days. The wheat in southwest Kansas still looks rough, but crop conditions improved as the tour moved east.

The calculated yield from all cars this day was 56.7 bushels per acre. Tour participants remarked that those yields seemed high because the formula used to calculate yield potential does not take disease, weed nor pest pressure into consideration. Scouts saw some instances of wheat streak mosaic virus, stripe rust and Russian wheat aphid. Many of the fields with rust had been sprayed with a fungicide.

Day 3

The official hard winter wheat tour projection for total production in Kansas is 365 million bushels or 9.94 million metric tons (MMT). This number is the average of estimated predictions from tour participants who gathered information from 350 fields across the state. Based on May 1 conditions, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) predicted the Kansas crop to be 331 million bushels, with a yield of 48 bushels per acre, or 9.1 MMT. The NASS estimate is 18% more than its 2020 estimate at the same time.

The NASS estimate for the Nebraska wheat crop is 36.7 million bushels, or just under 1.0 MMT, up 8% from last year. The Colorado crop is estimated at 64.5 million bushels (1.76 MMT). Oklahoma’s production is estimated at 110.74 million bushels (3.1 MMT).

Tour participant discussions from each day of the 2021 hard winter wheat tour are posted at https://www.youtube.com/c/KansasWheat.

Read more about the 2020 virtual tour and the 2019 tour from U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).