Hard White Wheat: Producing North Dakota’s Next Market Opportunity
(A1310, Revised Jan. 2015)
This publication provides background information about growing hard white wheat, the challenges of its production and the current recommendations for growing it in North Dakota.
Revised by Joel K. Ransom, Extension Cereal Crops Agronomist
Availability: Web only
- Participate in expanding whole-wheat and whole-grain product demand in the U.S.
- Increase U.S. share of Asian noodle market
- Provide North Dakota producers with another premium wheat option
What is hard white wheat?
Hard white wheat is the newest class of wheat marketed in the U.S., but it is not new to the rest of the world. Wheat in this class has a hard endosperm and white bran (Figure 1). Except for the absence of color in the outer seed coat and typically being more prone to weathering, hard white wheat is identical to hard red wheat. The white bran color does not alter the starch characteristics or protein functionality of the kernel.
Figure 1. Kernels of Alsen hard red spring wheat (left) and Lolo hard white spring wheat.
Hard white wheat is used in whole-wheat and high-extraction flour applications such as pan breads, flatbreads and specialty noodles. In the hard white wheat quality class, the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes no distinction between winter and spring types.
Production of hard white wheat in the U.S. is on less than 2 million acres, but it expanded significantly from 2002 to 2005 with the aid of an incentive program the USDA funded. Kansas and Colorado, the largest hard white producing states, grow winter types.
Much of the wheat grown in China and South Asia, and virtually all of the wheat in Australia, is hard white wheat. Canadian producers recently increased production of hard white wheat, which is being marketed as two classes: Canadian Prairie Spring White, (targets the flatbread market) and Canadian Western Hard White (targets the noodle and leavened bread markets).
Why does the U.S. need to expand hard white wheat production?
Demand for hard white wheat exists in the domestic and export markets. Millers are capable of extracting more flour of the color and ash content they desire from the white grain.
Whole-wheat products made from white wheat have a favorable appearance, compared with similar products made from red wheat, because they have less pigmentation (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Loaves made of whole grains from white wheat show a distinct color difference from that of red wheat and taste more like the traditional white bread consumers prefer.
In addition, with fewer phenolic compounds and tannins in the bran, white wheat imparts a less bitter taste to the final product. Because of the interest in increasing the intake of fiber through whole-grain consumption in the U.S., white wheat is being used as a way of producing whole-wheat bread with much of the same appearance and taste as traditional white bread made from refined red wheat flour. White wheat also is preferred for use in high-protein Asian noodle and bread products.
Due partly to its proximity to the market, Australia supplies much of the hard white wheat to the Asian markets. Increased production of hard white spring wheat in the U.S. could allow U.S. producers to compete for a greater share of this market.