Low protein levels a concern for wheat crop

by Jay Sjerven
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KANSAS CITY — Millers and bakers watched with increasing concern as the hard red winter wheat harvest in Kansas progressed with no improvement from initial reports pointing to much-lower-than-average protein in the 2016 crop. The Kansas wheat harvest was 25% completed by June 19, and combines made tremendous progress since amid hot and mostly dry conditions. Each passing day of the harvest, though, seemed to support indications that the 2016 crop average protein may be historically low. There may be scattered pockets of protein in the state, but thus far, they seemed few and far between.

Millers and grain merchants noted most new crop Kansas wheat samples had protein around 10.6% to 10.8% with some samples averaging an incredibly low 7% protein.

To put these figures in perspective, the last time the Kansas wheat crop had average protein below 11% was 1969, when the crop average protein was 10.9%. The recent five-year average (2011-15) Kansas wheat protein was 12.7%.

Even if late harvest results push the average protein above 11%, such a low-protein supply would challenge both millers and bakers during what may be a bumpy transition to working with mostly new crop wheat.
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