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With U.S. hard red winter (HRW) and hard white (HW) wheat moving into its crucial vegetative state, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and its state wheat commission member organizations have started weekly conference calls to share wheat condition reports. Overall, wheat in Central and Southern Plains entered 2024 in better condition than compared to the prior three years. Although recent weather has turned warm, windy, and dry, industry participants remain optimistic for the 2024 crop.

The most recent 2024 USDA Crop Progress report rated 56% of the winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, up significantly from 27% last year. As of April 8, 6% of winter wheat is headed in the Southern Plains. USDA reported as of April 9, an estimated 18% of all U.S. winter wheat production is within an area experiencing drought.

Latest HRW Wheat Conditions

As usual, Texas leads the way in crop progress with 27% of its HRW and soft red winter wheat headed. At 44% good to excellent, conditions remain encouraging.

In Central Oklahoma, wheat progress continued to benefit from recent rains with 55% at the jointing stage. Good to excellent wheat condition in the state was 68% as of April 7. USW Chair Michael Peters farms northwest of Oklahoma City and reported this week that the condition of his HRW wheat varies from excellent to “just okay.”

Conditions in Kansas are also variable with 49% rated good to excellent. Jason Ochs farms in far western Kansas and recently told Kansas Wheat that it was a nice change to get a good stand right from the start last fall. Yet he also said his topsoil is dry.

“We missed the last three of four moisture chances, so optimism is going down a little bit,” Ochs said. “As of now, it looks like we are going to raise above-average yields. I don’t know how you cannot be a little excited about that.”

Drought has eased for the 2024 U.S. winter wheat crop. On April 18, 2023, 50% of winter wheat production was within an area experiencing drought.

Mixed Bag in Colorado

High winds in eastern Colorado have dried out fields and hurt winter wheat stands.

“Overall things are looking better than they did a year ago at this time,” said Madison Andersen, Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee Director of Communications and Policy. “However, it is a critical time for moisture, especially after the high winds and warm temperatures we have seen the last two weeks.”

In Nebraska, good to excellent winter wheat was at 68% as of April 7, but with the area’s dry and windy conditions, industry representatives say more rain is needed to make the crop. And in Wyoming’s southeastern region, USDA estimates that 91% of the wheat is in fair to good condition. That is up from 63% at the same time in 2023 and from the five-year average for this date of 74% fair to good.

USW will start publishing its 2024 weekly Harvest Reports after the combines start to roll in Texas. Follow the reports, posted every Friday, online here, or sign up here to have Harvest Reports emailed to you.

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USW Vice Chairman Clark Hamilton, USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small and USW Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa Chad Weigand pause for a photo in Luanda, Angola, during a U.S. agribusiness trade mission in late February.

USW Vice Chairman Clark Hamilton, USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small and USW Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa Chad Weigand pause for a photo in Luanda, Angola, during a U.S. agribusiness trade mission in late February.

Exports to Angola are dominated by European Union (EU) and Russian wheat, but U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Vice Chairman Clark Hamilton recently found evidence the emerging market holds good potential for wheat farmers back home.

Hamilton was in Angola in late February as part of USDA’s first-ever U.S. agribusiness trade mission to Luanda, the capital of Angola. Teaming with Chad Weigand, USW’s Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Idaho farmer met millers and bakers. He also analyzed consumer trends.

A Market with Potential

Hamilton was able to imagine U.S. wheat’s place on menus and store shelves there. U.S. hard red winter wheat (HRW) wheat is used to make Lebanese-style breads that are popular in Angola. HRW is one of the six classes of U.S. wheat that could gain traction with importers.

“I believe there are a lot of positive things happening in Angola – there is a desire to build on industries other than oil, which has been the primary economic driver,” Hamilton said. “Importantly for future imports of grains, Angola has major plans to improve infrastructure, with rail being a major priority.”

Quality Will Be An Advantage

Right now, U.S. wheat struggles in the market because of pricing.

“But I think in the near future there could be more desire to use the high-quality wheat we grow for food products,” Hamilton said. “It is a growing country that has tremendous potential. For U.S. wheat, it is smart to be in an advantageous position when the market is ready.”

Milling Increasing in Angola

Examples of wheat flour on store shelves in Angola.

Examples of wheat flour on store shelves in Angola.

According to USDA’s International Agricultural Trade Report released in late 2023, wheat milling in Angola has been expanding since 2017. The country’s wheat production has not kept up, meaning it relies heavily on imports. In 2022, Angola imported 167 percent more wheat than in 2018. USDA reported that the EU has a 77% market share, while Russia’s share is 21%.

The U.S. wheat imports were valued at more than $3 million in 2019, USDA noted. U.S. exports to Angola have not been measurable since.

February’s trade mission to Angola was led by USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. Representatives of the Kansas and Wisconsin departments of agriculture, and 16 U.S. companies and organizations joined the mission.

Participants conducted business meetings with potential buyers, received market briefings from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and made site visits.

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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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Drought in major U.S. wheat-growing regions over the past few years is well-documented. The persistent dry conditions acutely impacted U.S. wheat yield and increased abandonment, with 2023/24 production coming in 6% below the pre-drought five-year average. Now, entering the second half of the marketing year, the focus has shifted to the 2024 harvest and its impact on both U.S. and global supply and demand. Although it is early, optimism has begun to bloom for the 2024 winter wheat harvest, and the following highlights the factors that have helped boost the U.S. wheat outlook.

Acreage Down, But Conditions Improved

The Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report, published on Jan. 12, put the preliminary winter wheat acreage at 34.4 million acres (m.a.) (34.3 million hectares), down 6% from 2023 but still 4% ahead of the five-year average. The hard red winter (HRW) wheat area is estimated at 24.0 m.a. (9.7 million hectares), down 5% on the year, while the soft red winter (SRW) area is approximately 6.89 m.a. (2.8 million hectares), a 7% decrease. The white winter wheat (including soft white and hard white winter) area came in at 3.5 m.a. (1.4 million hectares). Desert Durum® seedings in Arizona and California for the 2024 harvest are estimated at 65,000 acres (26,300 hectares) total, up 16% from 2023 and 48% below 2022.

This bar chart shows U.S. wheat planted area by class between 2013/14 to 2023/24.

According to the Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report, published on Jan. 12, the winter wheat acreage is estimated at 34.4 m.a., down 6% from 2023 but still 4% ahead of the five-year average. The HRW area is estimated at 24.0 m.a., SRW at 6.89 ma, and the white winter wheat area came in at 3.5 m.a. Desert Durum® seedings in Arizona and California are estimated at a combined 65,000 acres. Source: USDA Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report.

Moving toward fall of 2023, moisture helped replenish dry soil in the U.S. Southern Plains, aided planting, and supported early-season growth and emergence, while making visible improvements in the U.S. Drought Monitor. According to USDA, as of Jan. 30, 2024, winter wheat area in drought registered at 17%, down from 22% the week prior and 58% last year. Meanwhile, the last aggregate USDA Crop Progress Report, published on Nov. 27, 2023, put 50% of winter wheat in the good to excellent category, the highest since 2020.

This line chart shows the percentages of U.S. winter wheat rated "good to excellent" from 2015 to 2024.

The last national USDA Crop Progress Report put 50% of the U.S. winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, the highest since 2020. Source: USDA NASS Data.

Despite the decreased acreage, the cautious optimism about wheat conditions suggests the potential for improved yield and reduced abandonment for the 2024 harvest. Improved yields will provide a welcome boost to U.S. wheat production, helping improve supply and relieving pressure on the U.S. balance sheet and wheat prices.

An Early State-by-State Snapshot

Comments from producers at a recent meeting of the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Wheat Quality Committee echoed the optimistic sentiment. However, despite the objectively improved crop outlook from the year prior, winter conditions have started to vary as the season progresses, serving as a reminder that much can change before harvest time.

Following are condition recaps in major winter wheat-producing states from committee members and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data as of Jan. 28:

Kansas. Data from NASS rates 54% of Kansas winter wheat good to excellent, and optimism has bloomed regarding the 2024 harvest. Kansas wheat farmer and USW Secretary-Treasurer elect Gary Millershaski highlighted visible improvements to wheat stands compared to the previous year.

Texas. NASS data put Texas wheat conditions at 42% good to excellent, while Texas farmers remain optimistic about current conditions.

Oklahoma. An Oklahoma farmer commented that soil moisture remains adequate, and the wheat entered dormancy in good condition. Oklahoma crop conditions rated 63% of the crop in the good to excellent category.

Colorado. About 61% of the crop sits in the good to excellent category, though winds and dry weather this winter may cause some condition deterioration.

Nebraska. According to a Nebraska farmer, rain during planting helped boost conditions, and the stands continue to benefit from the soil moisture. Current conditions put Nebraska winter wheat at 69% good to excellent.

South Dakota. South Dakota Wheat Commission CEO Jon Kleinjan commented that the state’s HRW wheat was seeded with adequate moisture. As good snow cover remains, he is optimistic about the 2024 crop. Likewise, NASS put 53% of winter wheat in good to excellent.

Montana. Approximately 41% of the HRW crop sits in the good category; however, cold and a lack of snow coverage have negatively impacted crop conditions this winter.

USDA/NOAA Map of Winter Wheat in Drought from Jan. 30, 2024.

According to the weekly USDA Agriculture in Drought Report, as of Jan. 30, 2024, 17% of U.S. winter wheat resides in areas experiencing drought, down from 22% last week and much improved from 58% last year. Source: U.S. Agriculture in Drought.

More Data to Come

The upcoming USDA Prospective Plantings Report will provide preliminary estimates for spring wheat, durum, and the white spring wheat area and update the winter wheat estimates. It is important to remember that the 2024 harvest is still months away, and conditions can and will change as the crop year progresses. Nonetheless, even after an extended drought, U.S. wheat farmers remain resilient and committed to growing a reliable supply of high-quality wheat for their customers around the world.

By USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford

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A month-long effort that had U.S. wheat farmers and industry experts presenting the 2023 Crop Quality Report to customers in more than two dozen countries is winding down with a collective sense of accomplishment.

It is believed at least one attendance record was set this year.

The annual series of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Crop Quality Seminars, which provide crucial information to customers and provide an opportunity for wheat buyers to interact and create a dialogue about the quality of the wheat crop, began in Sub-Saharan Africa on Nov. 1. Seminars in Central America/Caribbean and South Asia beginning soon after. Seminars in South America, the European Union and North Asia wrapped up on Nov. 20.

Only two dates remain: Seminars will take place in Dubai on Dec. 5 and Casablanca on Dec. 7.

Large Attendance

“The large attendance we saw this year highlights how much our customers value U.S. wheat’s timely and transparent information,” said USW Marketing Analyst Tyllor Ledford, who participated in her first Crop Quality Seminar. Ledford presented at the South Asia seminars (see photo above), which took place in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. “Throughout the three seminars, we were able to reach customers from Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The seminar in Bangkok was the largest on record, with nearly 140 participants.”

Attendance was strong throughout the 2023 Crop Quality Seminar series including here in Seoul, South Korea.

Attendance was strong throughout the 2023 Crop Quality Seminar series including here in Seoul, South Korea.

Producers Cory Kress (Idaho) and Aaron Kjelland (North Dakota) presented on New Technologies in Agriculture and Planting Decisions for Farmers. Likewise, U.S. country elevator managers Jason Middleton and Tyler Krause provided a presentation about grain origination and how it is handled at the first point of sale, in addition to by-class perspectives from exporters.

“The farmers and wheat buyers were happy to reconnect with familiar faces they had seen on trade team visits to the U.S. and other events,” said Ledford.

Positive Feedback

Erica Oakley, USW Vice President of Programs, said there has been a lot of positive feedback from each of the seven regions where Crop Quality Seminars were held.

“Our customers around the world have complimented U.S. wheat staff and presenters from our partner organizations,” said Oakley. “We had a lot of good information to share, so credit goes to the U.S. farmers who produced a high-quality wheat crop.”

Mexico

USW’s Mexico City Office hosted more than 225 participants representing flour millers and wheat buyers from Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

China

The North Asia Crop Quality Seminar team traveled to Suzhou, China, and presented to about 160 flour millers, wheat buyers, and baking industry representatives. Guest of note included Ms. LaShonda McLeod Harper, Director of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai, and the senior COFCO Wheat Department Manager Mr. Sun Wei who had just participated in a USW-sponsored trade team visit for COFCO managers to the United States.

Group of about 160 U.S. and Chinese wheat industry officials and managers at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Shanghai, China, Nov. 2023.

About 160 wheat buyers, flour millers, and baking industry executives participated in the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Suzhou, China.

Japan

Montana wheat farmer Denise Conover greets Japanese wheat industry executives at a USW Crop Quality Seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

Montana wheat farmer Denise Conover greets Japanese wheat industry executives at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

In Tokyo, Japan, 130 customers attended a Crop Quality seminar. Attendees included flour milling companies from across the region, Japanese traders, grain inspectors and members of the media.

“The participants were very satisfied with the presentations and engaged them in active discussions and questions to gain a deeper understanding of the quality of this year’s U.S. wheat crop,” said Rick Nakano, USW Country Director in Japan.

South Korea

A total of 90 participants, including customers from the flour milling and food processing industries, attended the seminar held in Seoul, South Korea. It was the first in-person seminar held in South Korea in three years.

“Customers expressed great satisfaction with the on-site Crop Quality Seminar,” said USW Country Director Dong-Chan “Channy” Bae. “Notably, despite the typically reserved nature of Korean attendees, there was an engaging discussion on the market, wheat quality, and logistics during a question-and-answer session.”

South America

Seminars in South America attracted a good number of customers, reports USW Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

“In the seminar held in Cali, Colombia, participants represented 30% of total wheat imports in Colombia,” he said. “Meanwhile, in Bogota, more than 35% of total wheat imports were represented.”

USW Regional Director Osvaldo Seco welcomes participants to a 2023 Crop Quality Seminar in South America.

USW Assistant Regional Director Osvaldo Seco welcomes participants to a 2023 Crop Quality Seminar in South America.

A seminar In Quito, Ecuador, drew companies accounting for at least 90% of U.S. wheat imports. The same can be said for seminars in Lima, Peru, and Santiago, Chile – both saw more than 90% of U.S. wheat purchases represented.

Sub-Saharan Africa

USW’s Cape Town Office conducted Crop Quality seminars in Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; and Cape Town, South Africa. Presenting quality data from the 2023 harvest were Dr. Senay Simsek, Department Head for Food Science at Purdue University; Charlie Vogel, Executive Director of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council; and Royce Schaneman Executive Director of the Nebraska Wheat Board.

Simsek presented on Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) and industry analyst Mike Krueger presented via video on the world supply and demand situation for grains.

In Nairobi, USW also conducted a demonstration at the African Milling School using soft red winter (SRW) and hard red winter (HRW) for local products, such as chapati and mandazi.

By Ralph Loos, USW Director of Communications

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The 2023 U.S. hard red winter (HRW) growing season saw a mixed bag of conditions from another severe drought in the southern and central Great Plains to nearly ideal rain and temperatures in the northern plains and Pacific Northwest (PNW).

Total production, while still quite low historically, reached 16.4 million metric tons (MMT), a 13% increase from 2022. As for functional qualities, this is a sound crop that meets or exceeds typical HRW contract specifications and should provide high value to customers.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) reports hard red winter quality highlights for HRW grown in regions that supply feed into export facilities in the Gulf of Mexico and for export facilities in the PNW. The complete 2023 USW Crop Quality Report and detailed by-class reports are being produced now and will be posted online over the next few weeks.

Gulf-Exportable Hard Red Winter Crop Highlights

The average grade is U.S. No. 2 HRW with 84% of the crop grading No. 2 or better.

Test weights trended lower this year with an overall average of 59.7 lb/bu (78.6 kg/hl).

Kernel data indicate uniform and dense kernels with 69% exhibiting large size, a much higher level than in previous years.

Protein content average is 12.9% (12% mb), with 63% of Gulf samples 12.5% or higher.

Alveograph W average value of 260 (10-4 J) is exceptionally high for dough strength and an L value of 110 (mm) indicates very good extensibility.

Farinograph peak and stability averages of 4.9 and 8.9 minutes, respectively, are well within industry target ranges.

Average bake absorption is 64.6%, significantly higher than the 5-year average.

Average loaf volume is 936 cc, comparable to last year and indicative of excellent baking quality.

PNW-Exportable Hard Red Winter Crop Highlights

The average grade for the 2023 PNW-exportable crop is U.S. No. 1 HRW with 81% of samples grading No. 1 and 93% grading No. 2 or better.

PNW test weights trended slightly lower this year with an overall average of 60.7 lb/bu (79.8 kg/hl).

Protein content average is 11.8% (12% mb) with 59% of the crop 11.5% or higher.

Wheat moisture average is 10.4%, adding additional value for milling customers.

Kernel data indicate uniform and dense kernels with 69% exhibiting large size, which is a significant increase from last year and comparable to the 5-year average.

Alveograph W values were exceptionally high for dough strength at 296 (10-4 J) and the extensibility L values are high at 95 (mm).

Dough properties suggest an acceptable crop that is comparable to the 5-year average.

Loaf volume average is 868 cc, comparable to the 5-year average and above U.S. industry targets of 850 cc.

 

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Tom Cannon, center, plays with one of his family's dogs on their farm in Blackwell, Oklahoma, as he discusses the day's plans with his son Jacob, left.

Tom Cannon, center, plays with one of his family’s dogs on their farm in Blackwell, Oklahoma, as he discusses the day’s plans with his son Jacob, left.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) recently spent a few days on Goodson Ranch, a Centennial farm in  northern Oklahoma. It is in the town of Blackwell, just outside of Ponca City. The purpose was to meet with Tom Cannon, a fourth-generation farmer who grows hard red winter (HRW) wheat. Cannon spends a lot of time and effort to improve the sustainability of his operation. He is one of the U.S. wheat farmers that will be featured in USW’s upcoming “Stories of Stewardship” series, a project that will highlight the work farmers are doing to improve soil health and production. Here we offer a preview – a snapshot, if you will – from Cannon’s farm.

Flurry of activity

A professional video crew wasn’t enough to slow things down on Tom Cannon’s Oklahoma farm. Early morning was dedicated to working cattle, afternoon set aside for seeding winter wheat. But as is the case with most family farms, a flurry of unplanned activity and chores book-ended the day’s official plans.

“Welcome to farming,” Cannon offered with a chuckle as he inspected a flat tire on his no-till drill. It was the same drill his daughter Raegan was about to use to plant winter wheat.

A historic farm

Goodson Ranch was started by Cannon’s ancestors in the 1890s. Today, Cannon and his family raise cattle and grow a variety of crops, including HRW, corn, milo and cotton. His care for the soil and his attention to the role sustainability plays in the quality and reliability of U.S. wheat make him a solid choice for U.S. Wheat Associates’ (USW) ongoing “Stories of Stewardship” project.

In the project, Cannon and other U.S. wheat farmers tell the stories of their farms and how they work to make sure the land they pass on to the next generation of farmers is, as Cannon put is, “in better shape than when I started farming it.”

Tom Cannon explains the workings of his direct-seeding no-till drill to USW Vice President of Communications Steve Mercer and a film crew from USW's creative agency on hand to interview Cannon about how he practices sustainability on the farm.

Tom Cannon explains the workings of his direct-seeding no-till drill to USW Vice President of Communications Steve Mercer and a film crew from USW’s creative agency on hand to interview Cannon about how he practices sustainability on the farm.

“We are standing on land where my family started farming all those years ago. Now, all of my kids are back on the farm. They are here with me and my wife Laurie. The hope is that someday they will be ready to continue what I, and those before me, have built,” Cannon said. He noted that the fifth generation of farmers – daughters Raegan, Rachel and Reece, along with son Jacob – are involved in the operation.

Producing quality wheat

Producing quality wheat is part of Cannon’s mission, as is meeting the needs of customers around the world who purchase U.S. wheat.

Tom Cannon prepares to work cattle with his daughters Raegen, right, and Rachel, left.

Tom Cannon prepares to work cattle with his daughters Raegen, right, and Rachel, left.

“My kids are going to eat the same things that I’m selling to other people,” he said. “So yes, I have a huge responsibility for what I grow for the general public. You know, a farmer feeds hundreds and hundreds of people. I am very cognizant of how I raise those crops.”

Cannon’s farm has produced crops for 25 years with zero tillage. He uses direct seeding. Soil health is the foundation of every decision his family makes.

Tom Cannon chats with Oklahoma Wheat Commission Executive Director Mike Schulte as he waits for the video crew to interview him for USW’s Stories of Stewardship series

Tom Cannon chats with Oklahoma Wheat Commission Executive Director Mike Schulte as he waits for the video crew to interview him for USW’s Stories of Stewardship series

Tom cannon and his daughter Raegan trade ideas as they get ready to work cattle.

Tom cannon and his daughter Raegan trade ideas.

Native grasses key

The Goodson Ranch features a lot of native grasses, which make grazing cattle a natural part of the operation. But the grasses also inspired Cannon, a self-described fan of biology.

“Watching how our native grasses work enabled me to see that there was maybe a better way to grow our crops,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘How do I start building my soil and how am I going to manage wheat from the roots up?’ To do that, we had to get more diversity and we had to get cattle on this property at least once a year. You not only improve the soils. You also improve the quality of those products that you are raising in those soils.”

What is sustainability?

Asked what sustainability means to him, Cannon had a simple answer.

“I just have to shut my eyes and think about what this place was like for the thousands of years before we were here,” he replied. “What was it like then? Because it was absolutely sustainable.”

 

 

 

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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) brought a dozen pasta production specialists from around the world to North Dakota for a Northern Crops Institute (NCI) course designed to provide a better understanding of U.S. wheat and how wheat quality affects pasta quality. The course also helped attendees understand that, while pasta production is focused mostly on semolina from durum, pasta can be produced with other classes of U.S. wheat, such as hard red winter (HRW) and hard red spring (HRS).

The course took place a full two months before the upcoming World Pasta Day, which is Oct. 25. But the folks at NCI could argue they experienced a World Pasta Week – participants in the Aug. 21-25 course came from Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Chile, Mexico City, Honduras, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

This short video produced by NCI features participants talking about the opportunity. It also features USW Regional Technical Director Peter Lloyd, who offered the course valuable insight into optimal milling processes for pasta.

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During the week of Sept. 25-29, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor is leading an agribusiness trade mission to Chile. U.S. agribusinesses, including U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), are participating in business-to-business meetings with importers from both Chile and Peru.

The trade mission coincides with the USDA-endorsed Espacio Food and Service trade show, a major food show held in Santiago, Chile. USW joined several other U.S agricultural export promotional organizations in a USDA-SaborUSA Chile exhibit at the show. Under Secretary Taylor visited and offered remarks at the USW exhibit on Sept. 26. USW staff from the Santiago office shared these photos.

In the photo at the top of this page, USW Santiago Assistant Regional Director Osvaldo Seco and Program Coordinator Maria Fernanda Martinez show their pride in the USW exhibit with USW Baking Consultant Miguel Seguel.

Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor (right) is welcomed to the USW section of the SaborUSA Chile exhibit by USW Santiago Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor (right) is welcomed to the USW section of the SaborUSA Chile exhibit by USW Santiago Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

Greetings from USDA

Under Secretary Taylor making remarks at the SaborUSA Chile exhibit on Sept. 26.

Under Secretary Taylor making remarks at the SaborUSA Chile exhibit on Sept. 26. Of her visit and the trade delegation she is leading, Taylor said, “As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of U.S.-Chile relations, I am honored to lead such an incredible group as we work with Chilean importers on expanding our bilateral trade even further.”

Quality Wheat, Exquisite Bread

Artisan bread baked by USW consultant Miguel Seguel to demonstrate the quality and versatility of flour milled from U.S. wheat classes

Artisan bread baked by USW consultant Miguel Seguel to demonstrate the quality and versatility of flour milled from U.S. wheat classes had a prominent place in the SaborUSA Chile exhibit at the Espacio Food and Service trade show.

Chile is a well-developed wheat food market with a variety of products available. In 2022, U.S. wheat imports were valued at more than $100 million. Chile is currently ranked among the top 10 U.S. wheat importing countries in marketing year 2023/24 (June to May). Chilean flour millers import U.S. hard red winter (HRW) and hard red spring (HRS) wheat classes to produce flour for bread consumption. The bread is produced mainly by small artisan bakeries, as well as commercial and supermarket bakeries. To serve a growing cookie and cracker demand, U.S. soft red winter (SRW) and soft white (SW) wheat is imported.

Read more about the Chilean market for U.S. agricultural products here.

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Exploring opportunities for hard red winter (HRW), soft red winter (SRW) and durum wheat in both established and emerging markets, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) led a team of wheat producers and industry representatives to meet with customers and learn about milling and baking processes in Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia.

USW’s Latin America Board Team included Chet Creel of Texas, Michael Edgar of Arizona, and Keith Kennedy of Wyoming.

“We had a really good group with diverse interests that visited some very important markets to see how millers and bakers use the quality wheat produced back home – and why the quality is important to them,” said USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman, who led the team on the 10-day mission. “The goal of these Board Teams is to provide a broad canvas of a region, on-the-ground, face-to-face experiences in the mills, in the bakeries, and at the transportation facilities that support movement of U.S. wheat into the countries.”

USW's Latin America Board Team poses for a photo in front of a Grupo Trimex Facility in Mexico following a tour and discussions about U.S. wheat

USW’s Latin America Board Team poses for a photo with USW staff and milling staff in front of a Grupo Trimex facility in Mexico following a tour and discussions about U.S. wheat.

Mexico: U.S. Wheat’s Top Customer

Stops in Mexico included Guadalajara and Mexico City. Outside of Guadalajara, the team visited the Grupo Kasto mill, shuttle train and elevator facility that receives direct rail shipments of U.S. wheat. shuttle train and elevator facility that receives direct rail shipments of U.S. wheat. From there, the team traveled to the Guadalupe Flour Mill to meet with owners of the mill. The Guadalajara portion of the trip also included a tour of the OhLaLa! baking facilities.

In Mexico City, team members visited the USW office, where they learned more about Mexico’s milling industry and efforts to promote wheat foods in the country. Visits to Grupo Trimex and Harinera Anahuac flour mills followed, helping the team explore opportunities for U.S. wheat.

“It was clear U.S. Wheat’s staff has a great relationship in Mexico and there is a lot of trust,” said Creel, Vice Chairman of the Texas Wheat Producers Board and a HRW wheat producer. “We were able to see how activities like technical servicing and educational courses have helped the Mexican milling businesses. We also saw the value of the relationships the representatives in Mexico been built and maintained over the years.”

Ecuador and Colombia: Markets With Great Potential

After Mexico, the team moved on to Ecuador, where it met up with USW representatives serving South America from an office in Santiago, Chile. In Quito, Ecuador, the team visited flour mills and a cookie factory before moving on to Cali, Colombia, for a mill visit. The next day, in Bogota, the team toured a bakery and a pasta plant that uses U.S. durum wheat.

The USW Board Team during a tour of Grupo Superior in Ecuador.

The USW Board Team during a tour of Grupo Superior in Ecuador.

“We had some very good interactions at each stop and had some chances to discuss opportunities for U.S. wheat as a whole,” said Edgar, a USW Board Member and member of the Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council. “For me, a durum grower, it was valuable to specifically see where my class of wheat stands and the places where it could carve out a bigger share.”

While Mexico is the top customer of U.S. wheat, both Ecuador and Colombia have great potential to increase imports.

“We were able to meet with some companies that really prefer the quality that they’ve seen in U.S. wheat and want to continue to buy,” said Kennedy, Executive Director of the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission. “They have definitely seen some pricing pressures, and the competition is there, but customers in both Ecuador and Colombia were very clear that the quality of the U.S. crop is second to none.”

Developing Customers

Laudeman noted that Colombia and Ecuador have a huge amount of room for per capita wheat consumption growth.

“We are looking toward the mid- to long-term opportunities to be able to sell more wheat and boost wheat foods as part of the diets in each country,” said Laudeman, who added that the team noticed interest in soft red winter (SRW) wheat in Ecuador. “As we see bigger crops and healthier crops in the future, it is going to be an easy decision for them to continue to buy U.S. wheat. Meanwhile, we will continue to work on any policy challenges that might be barriers to our market access in these countries. We will certainly keep monitoring and make sure that we can keep the policy landscape healthy. We will also continue to explore opportunities for U.S. wheat.”