KANSAS CITY — Pan bread bakers face making operational adjustments to get the most out of a hard red winter wheat crop whose quality was expected to fall short of the exceptionally good 2011 crop, according to millers contacted by Milling & Baking News.

With the Kansas harvest nearing completion, certain crop characteristics were coming into focus. First, the crop this year will be lower in protein than last year’s crop, perhaps at least a full percentage point lower. The 2011 Kansas crop had an average protein content of 12.8%. The crop across most of Kansas this year experienced little stress before the remarkably and historically early harvest began. Average yield likely will be higher than a year ago but at the cost of protein. In fact, some grain merchants and millers indicated Kansas protein was running even lower than they expected.

Initial bake tests indicated good loaf volume and crumb structure, but absorption was lower than last year. Dough mixing times dropped and were less tolerant compared with 2011 wheat. Dough stability was weaker.

Initial farinograph measures were nowhere near as good as those characterizing the 2011 hard red winter wheat crop, but millers and bakers awaited more definitive results.

Bakers without doubt will be able to produce outstanding bread loaves and buns, but this will require greater effort and attention than was required when working with the outstanding 2011 crop hard red winter wheat.