Hard winter wheat quality good, soft red winter is a mixed bag
by Jay Sjerven
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KANSAS CITY — Millers indicated both they and bread bakers have experienced a mostly “uneventful” transition to working with the 2014 hard red winter wheat crop. The transition to using new crop soft red winter wheat has not been as smooth with some mills having to reach far beyond their traditional draw territories to secure supply that will meet miller and baker specifications.
U.S. Wheat Associates (U.S. Wheat) on Aug. 22 indicated, based on 410 of 530 intended samples, that 2014 hard red winter wheat had an average grade of No. 1 compared with an average grade of No. 2 last year. The samples to date had an average test weight of 60.8 lbs per bu compared with 59.9 lbs last year and 60.7 lbs per bu as the recent five-year average.
The average protein of the samples was 13.3% compared with 13.4% in 2013. Thousand kernel weight averaged 30.2 grams, sharply higher than 26 grams as last year’s crop average and compared with 28.9 grams as the five-year average. Falling number averaged 389 seconds compared with 421 seconds last year.
Shrunken and broken kernel content of the samples averaged 0.8%, much better than the 1.6% average last year.
U.S. Wheat noted of the samples analyzed through Aug. 22, “Laboratory and baking test results continue to be impressive with a W value (a measure of dough strength and extensibility) of 263, above the five-year average of 244. The overall farinograph absorption is 60.6%, well above the five-year average of 57.9%. Farinograph average development time is 6.4 minutes, and average stability time is 9.3 minutes. Loaf volume average of 873 cc is above the five-year average of 816 cc.”
One miller observed wheat from Oklahoma and Kansas was high in average protein. Protein dropped a bit as combines harvested the Nebraska crop, and South Dakota protein was a bit lower still. But even as protein content declined as combining expanded northward, it still was higher than average in both Nebraska and South Dakota.
As a result, protein in bread flour this year was expected to be up a half percentage point or even 1% from last year, the miller observed. The miller noted it was almost always the case that it was easier to move to using a crop of higher protein than one of lower protein.
Mills overall have experienced a smooth transition to milling the new crop, he added. Wheat performance was satisfactory. The crop was a little stronger than the one harvested last year, he added, and absorption and mixing time may increase as a bit as the crop year proceeds.
In its final report on the soft red winter wheat crop of the season issued Aug. 8, U.S. Wheat indicated, based on 527 samples, that the average grade of the 2014 soft red winter wheat crop was No. 2, the same as in 2013. Test weight of the samples averaged 58.1 lbs per bu compared with 58 lbs last year.
Soft red winter wheat protein averaged 9.9% this year compared with 9.8% last year. Thousand kernel weight averaged 31.8 grams compared with 33.5 grams last year. Falling number averaged 315 seconds compared with 294 second in 2013.
“For the most part, the laboratory results are comparable to 2013 data, and flour ash content results ranged from 0.38% to 0.47% compared with 0.31% to 0.55% last year,” U.S. Wheat said. “Bread volumes are slightly higher this year with an average of 720 cc compared with 690 cc in 2013. Cookie spread value is unchanged from last year.”
U.S. Wheat pointed to a southeastern mill that indicated it made the transition to milling new crop wheat with little or no difficulty. U.S. Wheat said wheat sourced by the mill had slightly high moisture content and had a wide protein range from 7% to 12%. The southeastern mill said test weights of wheat were running 61 lbs per bu with no falling number or vomitoxin concerns. U.S. Wheat added a mill in the upper Midwest was pleased with wheat in its area, which had higher falling number values than last year and low incidence of vomitoxin.
At the same time, beyond the average numbers, soft red winter wheat quality across the key growing region of the Central states was a mixed bag. Across much of Illinois, falling number held up well, but wheat from several areas exhibited elevated vomitoxin content. There were some areas with wheat with vomitoxin below 2 parts per million, which, in most cases, was acceptable for milling, but there also were areas with wheat with 5 p.p.m. Ideas were Illinois’ wheat average vomitoxin content may be around 3.5 p.p.m. This meant much of the state’s crop will be fed, and some will be stored for blending in the future to allow it to reach at least feed grade.
Southern Indiana and parts of Kentucky also had pockets where wheat had elevated vomitoxin content.
Mills in the affected areas may have to extend their reach into neighboring regions to secure an adequate supply of high-quality wheat to last the crop year.
In contrast, wheat quality across northwestern Ohio was very good, in instances, it was characterized as excellent. There was little kernel damage and only isolated instances of elevated vomitoxin. The principal complaint there was volume. Harvested area was smaller than a year ago, and yields fell below many expectations primarily because of winterkill during cold early spring.
Overall, a large number of soft red winter wheat mills have encountered no problems with disease or sprouting in wheat in their areas, but there are a handful of mills that are struggling. The Southeast, which had quality problems last year, had mostly good quality wheat this year. The same was true in the East.
Michigan soft white wheat was characterized as mostly good. Falling number held up well in most areas despite a cool and wet summer. There were pockets where wheat had elevated vomitoxin levels, and mills rejected some wheat offered on that account. But overall, mills had good-quality wheat with which to work.
The greater problem facing users of soft white wheat was the volume of supply. Harvested area was smaller this year than last, and average yield fell short of some expectations.
In many years, white wheat millers would be able to supplement the Michigan supply with wheat from Ontario. But Ontario producers, like Michigan producers, in recent years have been planting more soft red winter wheat at expense of white wheat. When white wheat supplies are particularly tight, mills may turn to western states.
Soft white wheat millers expressed the hope that the wide premium paid for soft white wheat compared with soft red winter wheat will encourage Michigan producers to increase white wheat plantings this fall.