Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Geographic Wheat Class Areas in the U.S.

As U.S. wheat production lags this year due to weather, let's look at the big picture of where and what types of wheat are produced here, as well as our changing global role in this commodity.
  • The United States is a major wheat-producing country, with output typically exceeded only by China, the European Union, and India.
  • Wheat ranks third among U.S. field crops in both planted acreage and gross farm receipts, behind corn and soybeans.
  • U.S. wheat harvested area has dropped off nearly 30 million acres, or nearly one-third, from its peak in 1981 stemming in large part from foreign competition and because of declining returns compared with other crops and changes in government programs.
  • About half of the U.S. wheat crop is exported.
  • Despite rising global wheat trade, the U.S. share of the world wheat market has eroded in the past two decades.
The following maps show the distribution of wheat classes grown in the U.S. These 1998 maps are the latest available for planted area by class of wheat.

U.S. Wheat, Area Planted 1998

Winter wheat production represents 70-80 percent of total U.S. production. Winter wheat varieties are sown in the fall and usually become established before going into dormancy when cold weather arrives. In the spring, plants resume growth and grow rapidly until summertime harvest. In the Northern Plains, where winters are harsh, spring wheat and durum wheat are planted in the spring and harvested in the late summer or fall of the same year.

Hard Red Winter Wheat, Area Planted 1998

Hard red winter (HRW) wheat accounts for about 40 percent of total production and is grown primarily in the Great Plains (Texas north through Montana). HRW is principally used to make bread flour.

Hard Red Spring Wheat, Area Planted 1998

Hard red spring (HRS) wheat accounts for about 25 percent of production and is grown primarily in the Northern Plains (North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, and South Dakota). HRS wheat is valued for high protein levels, which make it suitable for specialty breads and blending with lower protein wheat.

Soft Red Winter Wheat, Area Planted 1998

Soft red winter (SRW) wheat, accounting for 15-20 percent of total production, is grown primarily in States along the Mississippi River and in the Eastern States. Flour produced from milling SRW is used in the United States for cakes, cookies, and crackers.

White Wheat, Area Planted 1998

White wheat, accounting for 10-15 percent of total production, is grown in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Michigan, and New York, and its flour is used for noodle products, crackers, cereals, and white-crusted breads.

Durum Wheat, Area Planted 1998

Durum wheat, accounting for 3-5 percent of total production, is grown primarily in North Dakota and Montana and is used in the production of pasta.

Genetic improvement has been slower for wheat because of the grain’s genetic complexity and lower potential monetary returns to commercial seed companies, which discourage investment in research. In the corn sector, where hybrids are used, farmers generally buy seed from dealers every year. However, many wheat farmers, particularly in the Plains States, use saved seed instead of buying from dealers every year. In addition, U.S. food processors are wary of consumer reaction to products containing genetically modified (GM) wheat, so no GM wheat is grown in the United States.

Although wheat products have proven to be competitive with other foodstuffs in the domestic market in recent years, foreign competition (and policy) will continue to pressure U.S. wheat producers.

sources: usda