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.


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


A much larger 2023 U.S. hard white (HW) wheat crop also shows acceptable quality performance in milling, dough properties and finished products like pan breads, Asian noodles, and steamed breads. The Pacific Northwest (PNW), California and Southern Plains composites all show acceptable to excellent bread baking potential according to respective protein contents. Performance in Asian noodle applications and steamed breads is somewhat more variable.

Photo shows a combine harvesting hard white wheat with a green field, hillside and partly cloudy blue sky behind.

U.S. hard white (HW) is grown in Nebraska (above), Kansas, Colorado, Idaho, and California.

2023 Crop Highlights

Planted and harvested area for the 2023 HW crop reflect high abandonment in the Southern Plains due to drought. USDA estimates total HW planted area at 616,800 acres and harvested area at 473,520 acres, with abandonment of 23% compared to 15% in 2022.

Production was supported by late-season rain in Colorado and Nebraska, and much better growing conditions in the PNW. USDA’s estimate of total winter and spring HW wheat is 0.62 million metric tons (MMT) for 2023, 32% more than 0.47 MMT in 2022.

The grade for low- and medium-protein composites for California and the Southern Plains grade as U.S. No. 1. Very high protein composites from the PNW and Southern Plains grade as U.S. No. 2 primarily due to lower test weights

Test weights range from 59.3 to 64.4 lb/bu (78.0 to 84.6 kg/hl), a wider spread than in the 2022 crop.

Protein contents range from 10.8 to 13.7% (12% mb) with wheat moisture ranging from 9.9% to 12.8%.

1,000 kernel weights are equal to or greater than 30.0 g except for the low-protein Southern Plains composite at 29.6 g.

Falling number values are equal to or greater than 338 sec for all composites.

Buhler Laboratory Mill straight-grade flour extractions range from 69.8 to 70.6% on a tempered wheat weight basis, L* values (whiteness) from 91.6 to 92.4, and flour ash 0.42 to 0.50% (14% mb). Flour extractions should not be compared to previous years as the calculation has shifted from a total product weight basis to a tempered wheat weight basis. Commercial mills should see better extractions, although some adjustments may be necessary for portions of the crop with lower test weights and 1,000 kernel weights.

Flour wet gluten contents range 23.3 to 33.9% depending on protein content.

Starch pasting properties including amylograph and RVA peak viscosities range from 615 BU/2455 cP to 834 BU/2881 cP and indicate the crop will produce noodles with acceptable texture.

Dough properties show this year’s crop has lower water absorption values, weaker mixing properties, and less extensibility compared to last year.

Baking evaluation for all composites shows acceptable to excellent baking performance relative to protein content, with bake absorptions in the range of 62.6 to 68.5%, loaf volumes of 773 to 1026 cc, and crumb grain and texture scores that are similar to or better than a typical hard red winter (HRW) flour.

For Chinese white salted noodle performance, L* values are acceptable for all composites except the PNW and Southern Plains very high protein composites. The sensory color stability scores are excellent for the California medium protein composite with all other composites rating as poor. Using 60% extraction patent flour is recommended to improve noodle color while maintaining noodle texture.  Cooked noodle texture is softer than the control for all composites primarily due to lower starch pasting viscosities and water absorptions than last year.

Chinese yellow alkaline noodle L* values are similar or better than the control for parboiled noodles from the California and Southern Plains composites. Cooked noodle texture is softer for all composites primarily due to lower starch pasting viscosities and water absorptions compared to last year.

Steamed bread results show most composites have acceptable specific volumes. Total scores are lower than the control flour due to smaller volumes, tighter and yellower internal crumbs, and surface blisters. Blending 25% soft white (SW) flour with high-protein HW flour may improve overall steamed bread quality.


A business card to describe the jobs Art Schultheis fills in a typical year would be too big for any pocket.

“I drive a tractor and harvest with a combine – all the things people think a farmer does,” explained Schultheis, a fifth-generation farmer from Colton, Washington. “But behind the scenes I’m also a mechanic, I’m a bookkeeper, and, like most farmers, I have a whole long list of other jobs.”

Planning Ahead

On a late August afternoon, in a wheat field a dozen or so miles north of his home, Schultheis greeted a film crew (photo above) with a glance to the sky and a shrug. A soft rain had begun to fall, bringing that day’s harvest to a reluctant halt.

“I am not going to even try to predict it,” he announced to the film crew, while taking another glance upward. “But I think we may as well plan to get back at it tomorrow.”

Yet another job for Schultheis: planning strategist.

The film crew was commissioned by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), which is collecting “Stories of Stewardship” from wheat farmers across the country to highlight their efforts to produce high-quality crop using sustainable practices.

In August, the 61-year-old Schultheis was harvesting his 40th wheat crop. His diversified operation typically grows hard red winter (HRW), soft white winter (SRW), hard red spring (HRS), and hard white spring wheat. The farm has also produced barley, garbanzo beans, lentils, Kentucky bluegrass seed, oats, canola, and alfalfa. There are also 10 beef cows to take care of.

Photo shows two men, farmers, standing next to each other and looking to the left side of the photo; in the background there is a tractor pulling a wagon through a golden wheat field.

Colton, Washington, farmers Art Schultheis, right, and his son Kyle Schultheis.

An Eye to the Future

Schultheis took over Diamond S Farms from his father more than three decades ago. With an eye to the future, his son Kyle has returned to the farm and is being mentored to one day take over all his father’s jobs. Bringing Kyle into the mix is part of the family’s approach to sustainability.

“To me, there are three parts to sustainability,” Schultheis explained. “Number one is I want to leave the land in better shape than when I started farming. Number two is my farm must be profitable. If you are not profitable, you are not sustainable. Number three is that you need a succession plan for your farm to continue to operate through generations.”

As the film crew set up the next morning to capture his story, Schultheis pointed out that sustainability is second nature to him and all other farmers.

“We have always cared for the land, but now we have tools that we never had decades ago,” he said. “We can do things today that we could not do in the past, and the soil keeps producing at higher and higher levels. One of my hopes for Kyle is that when I’m gone, he can stand here and say he learned things from me and makes the land even better than it will be once I call it quits.”

USW’s Stories of Stewardship series will be available for all to see and explore. It is expected to be of special interest to customers of U.S. wheat around the world.

Responsible as Possible

“I think consumers here in the United States and across the world are asking questions about where their food comes from,” said Schultheis. “On our farm, we do not raise commodities, we are raising food. And we need to be as responsible as possible because we know the end-consumer is making that connection between where food comes from and how it is produced. To be honest, it makes my job a lot more fun.”

And by his “job,” Schultheis means every single one of them.


Wheat buyers from Nigeria and Kenya join North Dakota farmer Scott Huso in one of his fields to get a look at this year's crop.

Wheat buyers from Nigeria and Kenya join North Dakota Wheat Commissioner and farmer Scott Huso in one of his fields to get a look at this year’s crop.

Pictured above at the Port of Duluth in Minnesota: Chad Wiegand, USW Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa; Vigneswaran Sinnathurai, Vice President of Milling at Olam; Alok Khator, Vice President and Regional Manufacturing Head at Olam; Savan Sunil Shah, Director at United Millers LTD; Coreen Berdahl, Vice President of Operations at Minnesota Wheat.

Buyers from two African markets that are very different – yet equally important to U.S. wheat farmers – recently took a close look at the hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS) and hard white (HW) wheat supply chain by visiting farms and facilities in Kansas, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Led by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the trade team included representatives of companies in Nigeria and Kenya. Nigeria is an established customer and the fourth-largest importer of U.S. wheat. Kenya, a developing market that has seen a steady increase in wheat foods consumption, holds great potential for U.S. wheat.

Farm to Export Elevator

The team was able to follow the entire process of how U.S. wheat moves from farm to export elevator.

“Our goal was to show them the U.S. supply chain. We also wanted to explain how the quality of wheat grown in the states is monitored through the inspection process,” said Chad Weigand, USW Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa. “These visits are very important to customers in Africa who want to be assured they are getting the quality they want. We have competition in these markets, and face-to-face visits go a long way in providing trust and confidence in wheat from the U.S.”

Those face-to-face visits included meeting farmers. Kansas Wheat, an important USW partner, hosted the African team for visits with wheat growers and stops at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center and USDA’s Center for Grain and Animal Health Research. During a visit to the IGP Institute, the team learned about technical training and assistance programs. A commercial flour mill in McPherson was also a key aspect of the visit.

Kansas Wheat hosted the African team for meetings and visits to learn about the U.S. wheat supply chain.

Kansas Wheat hosted the African team to showcase the U.S. wheat supply chain. Pictured (left to right) are Kansas Wheat Vice President of Research and Operations Aaron Harries; Savan Sunil Shah; Vigneswaran Sinnathurai; and Chad Weigand.

Building Upon a Solid Base

Flour milling training is an important part of USW’s efforts in Africa.

“We provide a lot of help to the flour milling industry there, particularly by working with up-and-coming millers who are just learning the trade,” explained Weigand. “By providing technical assistance in grain analysis, test milling, flour analysis and test baking, U.S. Wheat is helping grow the milling industry. It increases millers’ knowledge of U.S. wheat classes. Ultimately, the purpose is to show advantages of each U.S. class over competitors’ wheat. We also work with the flour industry to address trade policies – things like import requirements and other market access issues.”

In Kansas, the team also made a stop at the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) facility in Kansas City.

Before Kansas, the team met with wheat farmers and received an update from the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) in North Dakota.  The Minnesota portion included meetings with grain traders at CHS and a tour of port loading facilities in Duluth. Coreen Berdahl, Vice President of Operations at Minnesota Wheat, participated in the Minnesota.

Supply Situation Updates

Farmers and representatives from Kansas Wheat acknowledged that Nigeria and Kenya will be limited by the short supply of HRW wheat this year. But building and maintaining relationships is important to global customers.

“Harvest results may differ from year-to-year, but coordinating local visits directly connects our customers with farmers committed to growing high-quality wheat,” said Aaron Harries, Vice President of Research and Operations for Kansas Wheat. “Wheat buyers, millers, and bakers track the progress of our wheat crop each year. Moving past the headlines is important to communicating the quantity and quality of each year’s harvest.”

On its final night in Kansas, the African trade team was hosted at a dinner, where buyers from Nigeria and Kenya were able to meet with Kansas Wheat staff and U.S. wheat farmers, including USW Chairman Michael Peters of Oklahoma.

On its final night in Kansas, the African trade team was hosted at a dinner, where buyers from Nigeria and Kenya were able to meet with Kansas Wheat staff and U.S. wheat farmers, including USW Chairman Michael Peters of Oklahoma.

Markets Differ, Both Have Potential

The U.S. has been the top wheat supplier to Nigeria in two of the past five years. Nigeria has been the largest buyer of HW and second-largest buyer of HRW.

In 2021/22, U.S. wheat exports to Nigeria increased to 1.63 million metric tons (MT) and the U.S. market share was 30%. But high prices have hurt trade in 2023.

Kenya, on the other hand, is seeing growth in wheat demand due to increased urbanization. New products are being introduced and branded for specific end-uses:  chapati flour, mandazi flour, self-rising flour, and others.

Most of the wheat flour in Kenya is used for home baking of chapatti (flat bread).

As both the Nigerian and Kenyan markets evolve, USW plans to share information about U.S. wheat’s quality and reliability.

“We will continue working on relationships and sharing information about the quality and reliability of U.S. wheat,” said Weigand. “We will also demonstrate to millers, bakers and end-product manufacturers the advantages of all six classes of wheat as stand-alone or blending wheats to reduce costs by displacing competitor wheats.”

This article includes information previously shared in an article by Kansas Wheat.




This article on the hard white (HW) wheat crop in Kansas was sponsored by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas Grain and Feed Association and the Kansas Cooperative Council.

Hard white (HW) winter wheat varieties continue to be popular among some western Kansas farmers for their high yields, disease resistance and quality. As U.S. wheat importers understand, the biggest challenge for hard white is market liquidity and continuity of trade into the marketplace.

Kansas Wheat continues to work with the grain handling industry and Federal Grain Inspection Service to revise the grain standards to facilitate HW movement in domestic and international markets and lessen the burden on grain handlers. For additional information on Kansas Wheat’s comments submitted to FGIS, visit

HW winter wheat is very similar to hard red winter (HRW) wheat apart from a gene impacting the color of the outer bran coat. It can be used for stand-alone whole wheat products with a lighter color or can be used interchangeably by mills with HRW, depending on protein and extraction needs.

Hard white wheat had been growing in export demand, primarily to Nigeria out of the Texas Gulf, but the past two years of drought-stricken production shortfalls have impacted that business.

A close up photo of hard white wheat kernels against a white background.

Hard white wheat has a hard endosperm, white bran and a medium- to high-protein content of 10.0% to 14.0% (12% mb). HW includes winter and spring varieties increasing the protein range and functionality within the class.

A Regular Joe

A HW variety named “Joe” is the top seeded variety in west central Kansas, making up 14.3% of planted acres. Hard white wheat varieties also make up 11.4% of acres in southwest Kansas. Overall, HW was seeded on 4.7% of Kansas’ 8.1 million acres, accounting for 380,700 acres seeded to HW in fall 2022. In these areas, the multi-year drought caused many seeded acres to be abandoned, including an estimated 60% of Kansas’ dryland hard white wheat acres.

HW winter and spring wheat is also grown in Colorado, Nebraska, Idaho, and California. The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Hard White Wheat Committee estimates U.S. total hard white wheat production to be just about 463,000 metric tons.

Overall, the quality of this year’s HW crop is excellent. While southwest Kansas had to abandon many acres, HW production increased in areas to the north.

More than Expected

Eric Sperber from Cornerstone Ag, an up-country elevator in Colby, Kan., said they have received four times the HW they got last year. At this point, HW makes up about 40% of their bushels.

“It’s a lot more than I was anticipating,” said Sperber. “It has been a number of years since we [received] this much white wheat.”

Overall, the quality of this year’s HW crop in the Colby area is comparable with the HRW wheat, with test weights ranging from 57 to 60 pounds per bushel, with the average ending up on the lower end with the delayed harvest. Earlier-harvested HWhad higher test weights, which has decreased after last week’s rain. Proteins consistently averaged 12.5% (12% moisture basis).

Results from the 2023 Hard White Wheat Quality Survey will be available from U.S. Wheat Associates and other sources online in October.


The impact of drought in the Central and Southern U.S. Plains is the dominant topic of conversation about the 2023/24 hard red winter (HRW) crop. Industry participants agree there will be a lot of HRW fields abandoned before harvest from Texas to South Dakota. Rain expected this week is a hopeful sign but likely comes too late to provide extensive recovery.

Following are the latest perspectives on the now two year long drought from state wheat commission executives and media covering the market.

In his April 21 weekly report, Kansas Wheat Chief Executive Officer Justin Gilpin compared past drought year abandonment, specifically in 1989, to 2023. That year unharvested planted acres hit 28.2% following drought conditions that Gilpin and others said are very similar to the current situation.

This chart shows historial perspective on the effect of drought on harvested area and abandonment of wheat acres over 30 years in Kansas.

Another Year of Abandonment? Data shared by Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin compares planted wheat acres, harvested acres, and the percent of abandonment since 1973. Gilpin said many industry folks compare the drought of 2023 with a very similar situation in 1989 when abandonment reached more than 28%.

A Crazy, Common Theme

“What is crazy in reading through high abandonment years, there is a common theme,” Gilpin said, “poor conditions through March into April…then, heavy rains began in May through June impacting harvest, but too late to help the western Kansas wheat crop.”

USDA’s April 24 crop conditions report echoed Gilpin’s comparison. It rated 26% of U.S. winter wheat in good to excellent condition, the lowest for this time of year since 1989. Reuters also noted “wheat in portions of central Kansas may have suffered damage from cold temperatures over the April 22-23 weekend. It is important to recognize that USDA’s winter wheat report includes the 2023 soft red winter (SRW) and soft white (SW) winter crops that are generally in much better condition.

In a call with state wheat commission representatives April 20, Darby Campsey with the Texas Wheat Producers Board reported that 30% of the state is in exceptional to extreme drought. In the Texas Panhandle, “much of the dryland wheat has failed.” Only 16% of Texas wheat is in good to excellent condition, mainly in the “black soil” region where mainly SRW is grown.

Dry as Death Valley

“In those regions that are in exceptional and extreme drought, you can certainly see why things are not favorable in northwest Oklahoma and the panhandle regions where we have the majority of our top wheat producing counties,” said Oklahoma Wheat Executive Director Mike Schulte.

There has been less than 0.8 cm of rain in that area of Oklahoma the last 220 days. Mark Hodges of Plains Grains noted that the Oklahoma Panhandle has received less moisture than Death Valley, California, the past 12 months.

“I don’t know that the rest of the world is taking into account how bad it is in the Southern Plains,” Schulte said in an interview with Oklahoma Farm Report. “I am hoping at some point in time the market is going to react to that.”

This map and data indicates that 2023 is the driest year on record for many counties in Oklahoma's western and panhandle regions following a two-year drought.

Driest in More Than 100 Years. The two-year-old drought has hit Oklahoma’s main wheat producing regions hard. In 3 counties, August 2022 through March 2023 was the driest on records going back to 1895.

Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota

Southeastern Colorado is also within the exceptional, long-term drought area. HRW and hard white (HW) wheat grown in northeastern Colorado has fared better with more rain and snow, but “needs more rain in May” to get closer to its yield potential. The state commission there reported that while 23% of wheat is in good to excellent conditions, 38% is rated poor to very poor.

Sub-soil moisture in the western and panhandle regions of Nebraska remains low with HRW and HW wheat in similar condition as in Colorado. Fields are “patchy” with 40% rated poor to very poor.

Abandonment of HRW in South Dakota is also a concern reported South Dakota Wheat Commission Executive Director Reid Christopherson. He said it was so dry last fall a significant portion of seeded fields did not emerge. After receiving more moisture over the winter, South Dakota HRW is now emerging, but if stands are not good, farmers may make crop insurance claims and replant to corn, Christopherson said.

Rain Too Late for Wheat

Returning to Justin Gilpin’s note that past drought years have seen rain coming too late for wheat crops, sure enough widespread rain was in the forecast for the Central and Southern Plains the week of April 24 “and could be substantial in some areas,” according to a weather brief by DTN Meteorologist Jon Baranick. “That will help to reduce the impact of the drought but will not make much of a dent in it. Additional showers could be possible late this week with another system. Wheat may not benefit from the rain too much due to poor conditions, but the increased soil moisture would favor corn [sorghum] and soybean planting.”

Farmers facing the difficult situation of losing a crop to drought that they worked hard to produce and the uncertainty of its impact on their family’s livelihood, have only the perspective of the generations before them to rely on.

“The key to remember here is that droughts are cyclical,” wrote columnist Brandon Case in the Pratt (KS) Tribune recently. “The land of Kansas has suffered from droughts long before it became a state and it will continue to experience droughts in the future. No one knows how long the current one will last and about the only thing any of us can do is pray for rain.”



The 2022 hard white (HW) samples show good quality performance in milling, dough properties and finished products, including pan breads, Asian noodles and steamed breads. The Pacific Northwest (PNW), California and Southern Plains composites all show acceptable to excellent bread baking potential according to their respective protein contents. For Asian noodle applications, using 60% extraction patent flour is recommended to improve noodle color while maintaining noodle texture. For steamed breads, it is recommended that high protein HW flour be blended with a portion of soft white (SW) flour to improve product quality.Map and graphics showing the region and number of hard white samples analyzed for quality in 2022


PRODUCTION for the 2022 HW crop is 472,308 MT, down 33%compared to last year and the 5-year average. Much of the decrease is due to extreme drought conditions experienced across the Southern Plains. Seeded acres were also down for winter and spring planted hard white compared to 2021.

GRADE average for all composites is U.S. No. 1.

TEST WEIGHT averages range from 60.2 to 62.6 lb/bu (79.2 to 82.3 kg/hl).

WHEAT MOISTURE ranges are 8.4 to 10.5%; WHEAT PROTEIN 11.3 to 13.9% (12% mb).

1000 KERNEL WEIGHT for the Southern Plains very high-, Pacific Northwest very high- and California high-protein composites are 26.6, 27.8 and 28.2 g, respectively. All others are 30.0 g or higher.

KERNEL CHARACTERISTICS include kernel hardness averages of 50.6 to 78.7 and kernel diameters of 2.47 to 2.86 mm.

FALLING NUMBER averages 382 sec or higher for all composites.

LABORATORY MILL straight-grade flour extractions range 70.2 to 74.3%, L* values (whiteness) 92.2 to 92.9, flour protein 10.9 to 13.3% (14% mb) and flour ash 0.43 to 0.51% (14% mb).

Extreme drought conditions in the Southern Plains caused production of hard white wheat to decline in 2022. However, samples of the crop show good quality performance in milling, dough properties and finished products.

Production of hard white wheat declined in 2022, but samples of the crop show good quality performance in milling, dough properties and finished products.


Flour and Dough Data

Flour WET GLUTEN contents range 28.2 to 35.4% depending on flour protein content.

AMYLOGRAPH peak viscosities are between 759 and 1076 BU for all composites.

FARINOGRAPH water absorptions range 57.2 to 65.1% and stability times 8.0 to 40.3 min, exhibiting medium to strong dough characteristics. HW farinograph water absorption is usually similar to that of HRW, but historically stability time is longer, indicating more tolerance to overmixing.

EXTENSOGRAPH data at 135 min rest shows maximum resistance in the range of 462 to 1126 BU, extensibility from 6.5 to 17.9 cm and area of 69 to 206 cm2. Maximum resistance for the California low- and Southern Plains medium-protein composites are 544 and 462 BU, respectively. All other composites are 717 BU or higher.

ALVEOGRAPH ranges are P (68 to 128 mm); L (81 to 130 mm); and W (227 to 389 (10-4 J)).

DAMAGED STARCH values are in the range of 4.3 to 8.3%.

Lactic acid SRC values range from 129 to 156%, indicating medium to strong gluten strength.

Product Test Results

BAKING EVALUATION for all composites shows acceptable to excellent baking performance relative to protein content, with bake absorptions in the range of 62.2 to 70.1%, loaf volumes of 728 to 985 cc, and crumb grain and texture scores that are similar to or better than a typical HRW flour.

CHINESE RAW NOODLES (white salted) L* values after 24 hr of storage at room temperature are acceptable for all composites except the PNW medium-protein composite. The sensory color stability scores are acceptable for all composites with the exception of the PNW medium- and California high-protein composites. Cooked noodle texture is acceptable for all composites.

CHINESE WET NOODLES (yellow alkaline) sensory color stability scores are similar to or better than the control for parboiled noodles from the California and Southern Plains composites. The cooked noodle texture is acceptable for all composites except the PNW medium-protein composite.

Overall, this year’s HW samples will produce noodles with acceptable color and texture if low ash patent flour is used.

STEAMED BREAD results show most composites have good specific volumes with total scores similar to the control flour with the exception of the Southern Plains very high-protein composite. Blending 25% SW flour with high protein HW flour may improve overall steamed bread quality.



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 white wheat brings to the market.

Hard white (HW) wheat is the smallest class of wheat grown in the United States, with an annual average production over the last five years of 822,413 metric tons (MMT), about 30.2 million bushels. U.S. HW is the newest wheat class and has developed a strong niche for whole wheat flour products in the U.S. domestic market. In addition, HW varieties are bred to yield flour for both bread and Asian noodles.

The strong demand for a specific use and the relatively small production has created a market where most HW is grown under contract with domestic U.S. milling companies to assure quality standards and provide a premium price incentive to farmers. It is also important to mention that HW wheat includes winter and spring varieties, increasing the protein range and functionality within the class.

Milling Advantages

U.S. hard white wheat performs in the mill much like hard red winter (HRW) wheat. The most apparent HW benefit is higher extraction levels of whiter flour due to its lighter bran color. Higher extraction rates generally improve flour water absorption, benefiting the baker. HW is a true hard wheat creating an advantageous granulation in the primary breaks for the production of coarse semolina, increasing the production of low ash flour.

Baking and Processing Advantages

The most significant advantage of hard white wheat is the quality of baked products made from hard white wheat flour. As mentioned, one of the primary uses of hard white flour in the U.S. baking industry is for whole wheat products. By using ultra-fine white whole wheat flour, whole wheat bread can be produced with the color and texture of traditional bread. This has created a large demand for white whole wheat flour in school lunch programs and other products promoting the health benefits of whole wheat flour and its acceptable taste to children.

Another advantage of HW wheat flour is its low polyphenol oxidase (PPO) content. PPO is an enzyme that can cause the browning of dough. Lower PPO content improves the color of wet noodles and Asian steamed bread products. The starch-pasting characteristics of some HW varieties, as measured by amylograph values, are also an essential trait for noodle production. High peak viscosity is associated with desirable texture characteristics in noodles.

Sourcing Challenges

With all the advantages of HW to the milling and baking industry, the market has challenges in determining its value. Most hard white wheat is grown under production contracts by U.S. milling companies. It is also grown predominantly in the Great Plains, adding to the challenge of marketing HW to Asian customers sourcing wheat off the West Coast. The small size of the HW planted acres creates challenges for a volume-based grain handling system. The need to segregate HW from HRW or hard red spring (HRS) wheat adds cost to the elevators due to the time required to clean equipment and bins. It can also be difficult to accumulate enough quantity to fill a ship hold or a complete unit train. These challenges require creativity and flexibility from both the buyer and seller, who must work together to pull HW wheat through the market and encourage the wheat producer to increase HW wheat planted acres.

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. It is also important to understand the value of blending flour from one or more types of wheat to optimize the flour performance at a minimal cost.

Each region, country, and culture have wheat-based food products that are uniquely their own. With six unique wheat classes, the United States has the right wheat class to 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 Winter
Hard Red Spring
Soft White
Soft Red Winter


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.