HARD RED SPRING—a specialty wheat grown primarily in the Northern Plains of the United States—stands out as the aristocrat of wheat when it comes to baking bread. The high protein content and superior gluten quality of hard red spring wheat make it ideal for use in some of the world’s finest baked goods. Yeast breads, hard rolls and specialty products such as hearth breads, whole grain breads, bagels and pizza crusts look and taste their best when baked with top quality spring wheat flour. Even frozen dough products are better with spring wheat because they can be stored longer than those made with lower protein wheats. Flour mills in the United States and around the world also use hard red spring wheat extensively as a blending wheat to increase the gluten strength in a batch of flour. Adding hard red spring to lower protein wheat improves dough handling and mixing characteristics as well as water absorption. The resulting flour can be used to make an assortment of bread products, as well as Chinese-type noodles.
The overall average of the 2008 U.S. hard red spring wheat crop is a No. 1 Northern Spring. Production is up 13 percent compared to 2007. Three-fourths of the crop is a No. 1 grade as the crop boasts little to no damage and a high average test weight on a region wide basis. However, there is a wider distribution of some quality parameters in the crop this year and a lower vitreous kernel level, due to extremes in growing conditions and yields across the region. Disease pressures were nearly non-existent as reflected in the mere 0.1 percent average damage level. The average test weight is 61 lb/bu (80.2 kg/hl) equal to last year and the five-year average, but about 10 percent of the crop falls below 57 lb/bu (75.1 kg/hl) due to severe drought conditions in some western areas. Across all production districts, the crop displays heavier 1000 KWT’s and lower kernel ash levels, most notably in western areas.
Average protein is equal to last year and the five-year average at 14.3 percent despite a wider than normal spread in protein levels across the region. The distribution of protein in eastern areas shows a higher percentage of the crop below 13.5 percent protein compared to last year, while western areas show less of a comparative shift. Although protein spreads are wider in 2008, more than half of the crop is still between 13 and 15 protein, higher than last year.
Subclass is a separate marketing factor based on the number of kernels with a complete, hard and vitreous endosperm, the portion that makes flour. For hard red spring wheat the subclasses are:
• Dark Northern Spring (DNS)—at least 75 percent or more dark, hard, vitreous kernels;
• Northern Spring (NS)—between 25 and 74 percent dark, hard, vitreous kernels;
• Red Spring (RS)—less than 25 percent dark, hard, vitreous kernels.