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This year has once again provided its share of uncertainty for wheat producers, handlers and buyers. We have seen challenges from drought, variable trade policies and the ongoing global pandemic. Through it all, the entire U.S. wheat industry remained fixed on providing the highest quality wheat for almost every customer need, backed by transparent pricing, trusted third-party certification and unmatched service before and after the sale.

As a key part of its commitment to transparency and trade service, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has produced its annual Crop Quality Report that includes grade, flour and baking data for all six U.S. wheat classes. The report compiles comprehensive data from analysis of hundreds of samples conducted during and after harvest by our partner organizations and laboratories. The report provides essential, objective information to help buyers get the wheat they need at the best value possible.

2021 USW Crop Quality ReportThe 2021 USW Crop Quality Report is now available for download in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Arabic and Portuguese. Chinese translations will be available soon. USW also shares more detailed, regional reports for all six U.S. wheat classes on its website, as well as additional information on its sample and collection methods, solvent retention capacity (SRC) recommendations, standard deviation tables and more. View and download these reports and resources here.

New Resources

USW continues to provide unique ways for our customers to experience and gain more knowledge about the 2021 U.S. wheat crop. New this year, USW has expanded its Crop Quality page on its primary website to include unique, individual pages for each of its six wheat classes. When viewing the website, users can access these new pages via the “Crop Quality” tab in the main menu across the top of the website.

For a second year, the pandemic has changed other traditional parts of the USW Crop Quality outreach effort. At https://cropquality.uswheat.org/, customers will find a variety of pre-recorded presentations covering 2021 U.S. wheat crop quality data and analysis, as well as several special topics in English or captioned versions in several different languages.

As always, USW local representatives are ready to help customers review their purchase specifications to receive the best value possible. For more information, please contact your local USW office here.

Continue to look for 2021 USW Crop Quality updates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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2021 Hard White (HW) wheat 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 good bread baking potential according to their respective protein contents. For Asian noodle applications, 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 of 2021 hard white wheat production and sampling

Production of the 2021 hard white crop is 0.71 MMT, up 13% over last year.  Much of the increase is due to additional seeded acres and good production in Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. Spring seeded HW was down due to the drought, which trimmed yields in southern Idaho.

2021 Crop Highlights

  • Grade average for six of the eight composites is U.S. No. 1. The low- and med-protein Southern Plains composites graded U.S. No. 2 due primarily to low test weights.
  • Test Weight ranged from 58.4 to 63.2 lb/bu (76.9 to 83.1 kg/hl).
  • Wheat Moisture ranged from 8.9 to 11.7%
  • Wheat Protein ranged from 11.0 to 13.7% (12% mb).
  • 1000 Kernel Weight for the Southern Plains low- and California high-protein composites are 20.1 and 28.6 g, respectively. All others are greater than or equal to 30.0 g.
  • Kernel Characteristics include kernel hardness averages 42.5 to 84.2 and kernel diameters 2.46 to 2.71 mm.
  • Falling Number averages 349 sec or higher for all composites.
  • Laboratory Mill straight-grade flour extractions range 69.8 to 73.1%, L* values (whiteness) 91.2 to 92.1, flour protein 10.0 to 13.0% (14% mb) and flour ash 0.45 to 0.53% (14% mb).
  • Wet Gluten contents range 25.1 to 29.8% depending on flour protein content.
  • Amylograph peak viscosities are between 553 and 1051 BU for all composites.
  • Farinograph absorptions range 52.4 to 62.9% and stability times 7.3 to 35.1 min, exhibiting medium to strong dough characteristics. HW farinograph absorption indicates more tolerance to overmixing.
  • Extensograph at a 135 min rest shows maximum resistance in the range of 294 to 1203 BU, extensibility 6.2 to 18.4 cm and area 58 to 183 cm2. The Southern Plains low- and med-protein composites were 294 and 528 BU, respectively, and all other composites were greater than or equal to 885 BU.
  • Alveograph ranges are P (38 to 120 mm); L (83 to 137 mm); and W (107 to 393 (10-4 J)).
  • Damaged Starch values are in the range of 3.9 to 5.6%.
  • Lactic acid SRC values range from 86 to 153%, indicating weak to strong gluten strength. The range shrinks to 116 – 153% if the Southern Plains low-protein composite is removed from the set.
  • Bake Evaluation for all composites shows acceptable to good baking performance relative to protein content, with bake absorptions in the range of 57.6 to 67.8%, loaf volumes of 742 to 950 cc, and crumb grain and texture scores of 6.0 to 8.0 points.
  • Chinese Raw Noodles (white salted) L* values at 0 hr of production and after 24 hr of storage at room temperature are acceptable for the Southern Plains low- and med-protein composites. The sensory color stability scores for PNW and Southern Plains low- and med-protein composites are similar to or better than the control noodle of 7.0. Cooked noodle texture is softer for the California med-protein composite.
  • Chinese Wet Noodles (yellow alkaline) sensory color stability scores are slightly to moderately worse than the control for parboiled noodles from all composites. The cooked noodle texture is similar for all composites. 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 higher protein composites have larger specific volumes with total scores equivalent to the control flour. Blending 25% SW flour with high protein HW flour may improve overall steamed bread quality.

Buyers are encouraged to review their quality specifications to ensure that their purchases meet their expectations.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has posted more about the 2021 hard white crop here.

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

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

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The U.S. 2021 Hard Red Spring (HRS) crop endured significant drought conditions, leading to a sharp yield reduction and increased abandonment. Despite the moisture stressed growing season, the quality parameters of the crop are very good, with high protein content, high vitreous levels, low kernel moisture and sound kernels. Buyers will be pleased with this year’s improved dough strength and higher absorption values. With reduced supply and isolated areas with higher levels of shrunken and broken and lighter 1000 kernel weights, buyers should always remain diligent in their contract specifications.

2021 map of 2021 hard red spring wheat production and sampling

Weather and Harvest

Limited moisture allowed for fast planting, but cool temperatures or overly dry topsoil delayed emergence in parts of the growing region. Above-average temperatures, minimal precipitation and high winds stressed a significant share of the crop. A dry, rapid harvest period limited disease pressures and benefitted kernel quality parameters. USDA estimates production at 8.1 million metric tons, 44% below last year.

2021 Crop Highlights

  • Grade – the overall average is U.S. No. 1 Dark Northern Spring (DNS).
  • Test Weight averages 61.3 lb/bu (80.6 kg/hl), slightly lower than the 2020 and 5-year averages.
  • Vitreous Kernel Levels (DHV) improved, averaging 80% compared to 71% in 2020.
  • Protein averages 15.4% (12% mb), above 2020 and 5-year averages.
  • DON levels were near zero due to minimal disease pressures.
  • 1000 Kernel Weight average is 29 g, below 2020 and 5-year averages.
  • Falling Number average is 377 sec, benefited by a rapid, dry harvest.
  • Wet Gluten averages 37.4%, notably higher than 2020 and 5-year averages, supported by high kernel protein content.
  • Amylograph values average 732 BU for 65 g of flour, up notably from recent levels.
  • Farinograph testing indicates a much stronger crop than in recent years, with an average stability of 18.8 min.
  • Alveograph and Extensograph analyses show greater resistance and less extensibility.
  • Loaf Volume average is 952 cc, lower than 2020 and 5-year averages.
  • Bake Absorption average is 66.4%, down from 2020 but similar to the 5-year average.
  • Bread Scores are higher than 2020 and 5-year averages.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has posted more about the 2021 hard red spring crop here and the full regional report here.

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

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

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Buyers will find the 2021 Northern durum crop to be of high quality, especially for grading and kernel characteristics. Although lower than previous years, test weights are stronger than expected, and damage is low. There is no shortage of protein in this year’s crop, and falling number values indicate a sound crop. Lower 1000 kernel weights and a reduction in the percentage of large-sized kernels will likely reduce milling yields. Dough properties look to be strong as well as cooked pasta characteristics. The main issue buyers will face is lower supply levels. Customers should also continue to be diligent in contract specifications, given that a small portion of the crop did see some rainfall at harvest.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has posted the full 2021 Northern Durum Wheat Quality Report here.

2021 U.S. durum sampling data

Weather and Harvest

In the U.S. Northern Plains, Durum production is down by more than 50% from 2020 due to a small decline in acreage and sharply lower yields caused by severe drought. Throughout the growing season, overly dry soil conditions were a concern, and the dry conditions pushed crop development ahead of normal but kept disease pressures minimal. Most of the harvest was completed under dry conditions, allowing for excellent grading and kernel characteristics. Scattered rain delays toward the end of harvest affected some quality factors but did not significantly impact overall quality.

2021 Crop Highlights

  • Grade – the overall average is U.S. No. 1 Hard Amber Durum (HAD).
  • Test Weight averages 60.5 lb/bu (78.8 kg/hl), below last year and five-year averages, due to drought pressure.
  • Damage was quite low at 0.1% due to minimal disease pressure.
  • Vitreous Kernel (Hvac) content is 86%, similar to last year and 5-year averages due to drought conditions.
  • Protein averages 15.5% (12% mb), higher than 2020; nearly 90% of the crop has a minimum protein of 14%.
  • 1000 Kernel Weight average is 41.2 g, a drop from last year’s high value of 46.7 and slightly below the 5-year average of 42.1, due to dry conditions during kernel fill.
  • Kernel Moisture was lower than average due to a mostly dry harvest period.
  • Falling Number values are high, with the average for the region being 428 sec.
  • Don is nearly non-existent in this year’s crop due to very minimal disease pressure.
  • Speck Counts are lower than last year and 5-year averages.
  • Semolina Protein is 14.2%, much higher than last year due to higher kernel protein.
  • Semolina Color values are similar to last year, with brightness and yellowness slightly lower.
  • Mixing Properties reveal a stronger crop than last year and the 5-year average.
  • Cooked Spaghetti Evaluations show color similar to the 5-year average and higher cooked weight and firmness. Cooking loss is higher than last year.

Read more about the 2021 Northern Durum wheat crop here.

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

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

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The Pacific Northwest (PNW) experienced challenging drought conditions in the 2021 soft white crop year, resulting in a wheat crop with higher protein and lower yields. This year’s SW crop has weak to medium gluten strength and acceptable finished product characteristics. SW is especially suited for use in cakes, pastries, cookies and snack foods. The high protein segment of the SW crop provides opportunities in blends for crackers, Asian noodles, steamed breads, flatbreads and pan breads. With very weak gluten strength, Club White is typically used in a Western White blend with SW for cakes and delicate pastries.

2021 U.S. soft white sampling data

Weather and Harvest

Winter planting conditions were generally good, including sufficient moisture overall to develop a strong stand; however, less winter moisture impacted crop development coming out of dormancy. Spring planting conditions were poor due to the very dry conditions and excessive heat throughout much of the PNW.

As the crop developed, extreme sustained heat in late June accelerated crop maturity in many areas, which put the harvest timeframe generally ahead of average. Production of the 2021 PNW SW crop is estimated at 4.3 MMT, the lowest for the region since 1966.

Buyers are encouraged to review their quality specifications to ensure that their purchases meet their expectations. This will be a good year to understand SW protein performance versus protein levels; your local U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) representative can help.

2021 Crop Highlights:

  • Grade – the overall averages are U.S. No. 2 Soft White and U.S. No. 1 White Club.
  • Test Weight averages are 59.3 lb/bu for SW and 59.7 lb/bu for WC.
  • Wheat Protein (12% mb) ranges from 8.1 to 11.9% for SW, with the weighted average 11.3%. Club averages 11.5%.
  • Wheat Moisture ranges from 8.7 to 9.7% for SW with a weighted average of 8.8%. Club averages 8.0%.
  • Wheat Falling Number average is 319 sec or higher for all SW composites and 345 sec for Club.
  • Wet Gluten contents for SW flour range from 8.4 to 24.5%, depending on flour protein content. Club averages 6.1%.
  • SRC lactic acid values range 91 to 109% for SW, indicating weak to medium gluten strength.
  • Amylograph peak viscosities for SW are between 472 and 542 BU for all composites. Club averages on amylograph peak viscosity of 529 BU.
  • Farinograph SW absorptions range from 51.5 to 53.1% with 2.2 to 2.6 min stability times, showing desirable weak dough characteristics. Average Club farinograph absorption is 51.1% with a stability of 1.1 min, showing very weak dough characteristics typical for Club.
  • Extensograph SW data at 45 min show maximum resistance in the range of 174 to 284 BU, extensibility 16.8 to 18.4 cm and area 46 to 79 cm2. Club extensograph 45 min maximum resistance, extensibility, and area are 107 BU, 17.2 cm, and 23 cm2, respectively.
  • Alveograph SW ranges include P values 37 to 42 mm; L values 57 to 68 mm; and W values 63 to 78 (10-4 J). Average Club alveograph P, L and W values of 27 mm, 43 mm, and 29 (10-4 J), respectively.
  • Sponge Cake SW volumes range from 1077 to 1104 cc, depending on protein content, with a weighted average of 1081 cc. Total sponge cake score is 33 to 49, with a weighted average of 35. Club sponge cake volume is 1070 cc with a total score of 34. Scores were lower due to firmer textures.
  • Cookie SW diameters are 8.6 to 8.7 cm with spread factors of 10.1 to 10.4. Club diameter and spread factor are 9.1 and 12.6 cm, respectively.
  • Chinese Southern-Type Steamed Bread specific volumes are 2.2 to 2.4 mL/g with total scores less than the control score of 70.0. Club specific volume is 2.3 mL/g with a total score below the control.

Read more about the 2021 soft white wheat crop here and view the full regional report here.

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

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

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

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

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

Weather and Harvest

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

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

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

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

2021 map of hard red winter wheat production and sampling

2021 U.S. Hard Red Winter harvest in Oklahoma

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

2021 Crop Highlights

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

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

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

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

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The concept of “clean label” products is complex but increasingly important in food production and marketing. In 2018, a blog by the chief science and technology officer for the U.S.-based Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) noted that clean label is not a scientific term.

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

Familiar Example

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

Expert Insight for the Baker

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

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

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

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

The Clean Label Potential of Spring Wheat Flour

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

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

Conclusion Simsek Clean Label Bread Study

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Production

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

2021 Crop Quality Highlights

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

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

2021 California Hard Red Winter Wheat

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

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

Weather and Production

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

2021 Crop Quality Highlights

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

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

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

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

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As they did in 2020, U.S. wheat farmers have produced an excellent 2021 soft red winter wheat crop for the world’s weak gluten wheat buyers and food processors.

Analysis of 263 samples from elevators in 18 reporting areas across 11 states that account for an estimated 73% of total U.S. SRW production indicates the crop delivers very good performance characteristics. This year’s composite characteristics demonstrate uniformly excellent kernel characteristics, benefited by timely mild temperatures and rainfall.

Other quality factors include less extensibility than in 2020 and the 5-year average, and excellent quality for cookies and crackers. There were pockets of higher enzymatic activity resulting in lower falling numbers and higher damaged starch from the East Coast and isolated portions of the Gulf Ports region, but overall, buyers should be extremely happy with the quality of the entire 2021 SRW crop. Buyers are encouraged to review their quality specifications to ensure that purchases meet their expectations.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has posted the full Soft Red Winter Wheat 2021 Quality Survey on its website here.

Planting and Harvest

USDA estimates the 2021 soft red winter wheat crop seeded area at 6.59 million acres (2.67 million hectares), up from 5.63 million acres (2.28 million hectares) seeded for the 2020 harvest and up from the five-year average. Good growing conditions were overall can be seen in the excellent quality of this crop. Although harvest started slowly with cool, wet conditions, a warm-up helped growers finish in line with the 5-year average. U.S. soft red winter (SRW) wheat production, estimated at 362 million bushels or 9.85 million metric tons (MMT), a 37% increase over 2020 and a 28% increase over the 5-year average.2021 map of soft red winter wheat production and sampling.

Samples were collected and analyzed by Great Plains Analytical Laboratory, Kansas City, Mo. The results were weighted by the estimated production for each reporting area and combined into “Composite Average,” “East Coast” and “Gulf Port” values.

2021 Crop Highlights

  • Grade – the overall average for the 2021 SRW harvest survey is U.S. No. 2 SRW.
  • Test Weight averages are indicative of sound wheat and a uniform crop with Composite 59.7 lb/bu (78.6 kg/hl), Gulf average 60.0 lb/bu (79.8 kg/hl), and East Coast 58.8 lb/bu (77.4 kg/hl).
  • 1000 Kernel Weight, Kernel Diameter and Wheat Protein values reflect a relatively uniform crop.
  • Wheat Protein content demonstrates a uniform crop. The Composite average of 9.3% (12% mb) and Gulf Ports average of 9.2% are lower than the 5-year averages. The East Coast average of 9.5% is slightly higher than 2020 but below the 5-year average.
  • Wheat Falling Number trended lower this year due to localized rainfall during harvest with Composite (297 sec), East Coast (257 sec) and Gulf Ports (307 sec) all below 2020 and 5-year averages. USW Regional Technical Director Peter Lloyd said while low falling number values are not eliminated from the survey, “the very few problem areas resulting from late rains will most likely never come to market.” Buyers will have no problems when they use a minimum 250 second falling number in their specifications.
  • Vomitoxin (DON) averages are well below the USDA threshold of 2.0 ppm with Composite at 0.8 ppm, Gulf Ports 0.9 ppm and East Coast 0.2 ppm. “DON levels are among the lowest we have seen in some time,” Lloyd said.
  • Laboratory Mill Flour Extraction for Composite (65.9%), East Coast (65.4%) and Gulf Ports (66.1%) are below 2020 and the 5-year averages but still indicate a good milling crop.
  • Damaged Starch values are slightly higher this year and can be attributed to higher enzymatic activity in isolated areas.
  • Amylograph averages indicate relatively high levels of amylase activity in portions of the crop with low falling numbers. Averages for Composite (440 BU), East Coast (290 BU) and Gulf (477 BU) are lower than last year and 5-year averages.
  • Solvent Retention capacity values generally indicate excellent quality for cookies and crackers. Lactic Acid values are above 100 and below 120, indicating excellent quality for crackers
  • Dough Properties suggest that this crop has similar protein qualities to last year but weaker than the 5-year average.
  • Alveograph L averages for Composite, East Coast and Gulf are 56 mm, significantly lower than 2020 and 5-year average values and indicate low extensibility.
  • Average Loaf Volumes are lower than last year and 5-year averages.
  • The Cookie Spread Ratios for Composite (10.6), East Coast (10.8) and Gulf (10.5) are all higher than last year and 5-year averages, indicating good spreadability.

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

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

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There is an easily understood expression in English that “you cannot judge a book by its cover.” Applied to the new 2021/22 U.S. soft white wheat crop that is good advice for the world’s flour millers and wheat food producers.

The persistent Pacific Northwest (PNW) drought is expected to lower yields and push 2021/22 SW protein levels higher than average. As USW Bakery Consultant Roy Chung says, however, protein level alone does not say everything about soft white end-quality performance.

Instead, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is helping flour millers learn that testing for Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) is the most effective and valuable method for predicting the true performance characteristics of flour for biscuits (cookies) and crackers.

The SRC method, approved by the American Association of Cereal Chemists (56-11.02), examines the characteristics of glutenin, gliadin and arabinoxylan and the level of starch damage in flour. These values describe the flour’s ability to absorb water during the mixing process and its ability to retain or release that water during and after the baking process, among several other performance characteristics.

The combined pattern of the four component SRC values establishes a practical flour quality profile useful for predicting functionality, giving the miller and baker a ‘fingerprint’ of U.S. soft white (SW) and soft red winter (SRW) wheat flour end-quality performance.

Image of a video describing SRC analysis of soft white wheat and other classes

Noted cereal chemist Dr. Art Bettge, ADB Wheat Consulting, described SRC use and interpretation in-depth in a video lecture for USW’s 2020 Crop Quality Seminars.

“While rheological analysis tools measure the combined effect of the components in flour, individual component functionality, measured by SRC, gives a better picture of whether you are going to get the desirable performance from the flour for the product you want to make,” Chung told a large audience of millers and bakers in a USW webinar on SRC in June 2021.

With a more complete understanding of the functional value of wheat proteins, carbohydrates and other properties, flour milling quality control managers will have additional information to evaluate the characteristics more accurately of U.S. soft white wheat and Western White (a blend of SW and a minimum 10% white club) this year compared to competing supplies.

Test of cookie spread using soft white wheat flour and other low protein flour to show protein % does not always predict performance.

These test results, provided by USW Bakery Consultant Roy Chung, show cookie spread increases and then declines as the flour protein percentage lowers, demonstrating that protein percentage alone is not an accurate predictor of performance.

Clean Label Input

“In addition, more wheat food manufacturers are looking for ways to ‘clean up’ their ingredient labels,” said USW Regional Technical Director Peter Lloyd. “USW can show SRC results to millers and bakers that prove flours from U.S. soft white wheat and SRW wheat can make beautiful end products without adding any ‘magic powder’ like enzymes that have to be added to medium protein wheat flour to make weak gluten products.”

USW has helped flour mills understand the advantages of SW by introducing SRC analysis and training mills to use the tool to expand their business. Vietnam is one example, where several flour mills use SRC analysis of flour products milled from SW to demonstrate how end-product performance is improved compared to flour milled from alternative wheat supplies.

“Our baking experts have already had several sessions with flour millers across South and North Asia about the benefits of evaluating flour from SW with SRC over protein levels alone,” said USW Regional Vice President Matt Weimar. “We were also pleased with the number of millers who participated in the June webinar on SRC, in which Roy Chung and Tarik Gahi, our Milling and Baking Technologist, demonstrated the SRC method. We also had a well-attended second session in July featuring Peter Lloyd discussing how to use SRC data to blend flour streams for better performance and profit.”

Excellent SW Will Be Available

Buyers, millers and end-users can be reassured that excellent quality SW is available even with a short 2021/22 crop. Beginning stocks carry in 1.91 million metric tons of total U.S. white wheat following a 2020/21 PNW SW crop with excellent performance characteristics. Local USW offices and U.S. export grain companies are also prepared to help their customers develop tenders that will deliver the wheat qualities needed at the highest value possible.