Wheat is a grass that is widely grown for its seeds, a cereal grain that is a critical food worldwide. Wheat is any of the many types of cereal grasses and edible grains. It is the essential food for about two billion people. The United States ranks first in crop exports. About 50% of its total Wheat production is exported. Let’s check out more information about Wheat farming in the USA.
Wheat is the second most food crop in the United States after Corn. The uses of Wheat are numerous, and it is grown for both domestic use and export. The USA is the largest exporter of Wheat globally, and the crop is grown in almost every state, although area and total production vary.
Advantages of Wheat farming in the USA
Firstly, the main advantage is consistency in quality and supply. U.S. Wheat is always available on the world market. Secondly, U.S. Wheat supplies a variety. Wheat is a raw material made from bakery ingredients and flour. Flour made from every unique class of American Wheat brings to market the unique quality properties for making various baked goods and noodles.
It is also essential to understand the value of mixing flour with one or more wheat varieties to improve the efficiency of flour at the lowest cost. Every region, country, and culture has its food products based on Wheat. With six unique Wheat classes, the United States has the suitable Wheat class that provides the best quality and price for all products.
Wheat Varieties in the USA
In the United States, Wheat is grown under two major climate-based varieties: Winter Wheat and Spring Wheat. The majority is Winter Wheat, which, on average, accounts for 75% of Wheat production. The U.S. Agriculture Department defines some Wheat classes:
- Durum Wheat
- Soft Red Winter Wheat
- Hard White Wheat
- Soft White Wheat
- Hard Red Winter Wheat
- Hard Red Spring Wheat
- Unclassed Wheat
- Mixed Wheat.
Winter Wheat variety accounts for 70 to 80 percent of total production in the United States, with the highest production in Kansas (10.8 million tons) and North Dakota (9.8 million tons). In addition, about 55 percent of the U.S. hard red spring Wheat crop is exported to more than 70 countries each year.
About 50% of the country’s total Wheat production is exported, valued at 9 billion. Classes of Wheat cultivated in the United States are determined by color, hardness, and growing season. With a range of standard features in these classes, customers can prepare and use American Wheat flour for almost every possible final product. Further classification of Wheat can be as follows;
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- Hard Red Winter Wheat (HRW), which produces 40%, is mainly used in flour production, which is high plains extends from Texas through the largest producing state, Kansas, and all the way north to the Dakotas and Montana. It is a versatile Wheat with excellent milling and baking properties. It is grown in the Great Plains, Northern and Northwest Pacific.
- Hard Red Spring (HRS) Wheat is known as the ” aristocrat of Wheat” for designer foods. In addition, it is used in specialty items such as baked bread, rolls, croissants, bagels, and pizza crust. It is also essential to improve the flour mixture to increase the strength of gluten. It is grown in the northern and northwestern regions of the Pacific Ocean.
- Soft Red Wheat has excellent milling and baking properties for crackers, pretzels, pastries, cookies, and flatbreads. In Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Michigan, New York, and Southeastern states, soft red winter Wheat (SRW) makes flour cakes, cookies, and crackers.
- White Wheat, which accounts for 12.5 percent of production in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Michigan, and New York, makes soup noodles, crackers, cereals, and white-crusted bread.
- Soft White Wheat is used in wonderful cakes, pastries, and Asian-style noodles. It has low humidity and a high extraction rate, making it a white product. It is also ideally suited for Middle Eastern flatbreads. It is grown in the eastern and northwestern regions of the Pacific Ocean.
- Hard White Wheat is a new class of Wheat grown in the United States. It is closely related to red Wheat in its milling and baking properties, but it has a light, sweet taste. It is grown in the Great Plains and the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean.
Durum Wheat is the preferred type for making pasta; It is grown mainly in the states of Arizona, North Dakota, and Montana, with an average yield of 4%. It is high in gluten and is ideal for pasta, couscous, and Mediterranean bread. It is grown in the northern and northwestern regions of the Pacific Ocean.
Winter v/s Spring Wheat in the USA
Varieties of Wheat grown in the United States are classified as “Winter Wheat” or “Spring Wheat,” depending on the planted season. Decreased temperatures in winter are key to determining whether winter or spring Wheat is grown in a particular area. The following spring, Winter Wheat plants begin to grow again until the summer harvest.
Winter Wheat represents 70-80% of total US Wheat production. Winter Wheat has a higher yield potential than Spring Wheat because of its longer growing season. Spring Wheat is widely grown in the northern plains, where cold temperatures would kill Winter Wheat in dormancy.
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U.S. States that produce the most Wheat
The leading Wheat growing states in the USA are North and South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Lowa, and Wisconsin. Wheat is grown during the spring, although the United States also grows Wheat in the winter. Sixty to eighty percent of the crop area in these states is allocated for Wheat. North Dakota produced the most Wheat in the United States, followed by Kansas and Montana. North Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Oklahoma are the states that produced more than 100 million bushels of Wheat.
The state of Kansas leads the United States in terms of Wheat production. Wheat produced in Kansas is at least half of the country’s total production, and half of it is used locally, while the rest is exported. Kansas farmers produce three varieties of Wheat: Hard Red Winter Wheat, Soft Red Winter Wheat, and Hard White Wheat. Kansas also stores the most Wheat in a number of storage facilities.
Wheat is the leading crop in North Dakota. Hard Red Spring and Durum Wheat are the two most commonly grown varieties. About half of the country’s Hard Red Spring Wheat produce (U.S. total of about 250 million bushels) comes from North Dakota, while two-thirds (approximately 50 million bushels) of Durum Wheat comes from the state.
Washington is known for producing high-quality soft white and club-type Wheat. Farmers in Washington grow Hard White and Hard Red Spring Wheat varieties, which are used in everything from human consumption to baked goods such as bread rolls and pasta. Wheat processing by-products are mixed with other grains to feed livestock.
Other top Wheat-growing states in the USA
The other Wheat-producing states include Oklahoma, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Minnesota, Texas, and Oregon. These states are major Wheat producers, contributing to domestic and international markets.
Large-scale Wheat farming in the United States
The average Wheat farm size in the USA is about 1,000 acres. Farmers own large holdings, and mechanization allows large areas to be cultivated easily. Farmers invest heavily in labor-saving machines such as tractors, plows, drills, and combine harvesters. However, farmers face severe difficulties in crop failure due to a lack of markets or arid conditions.
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Extensive Wheat farms in Prairies have the following characteristics;
- Wheat requires only 13 inches of rain. Grain is what is grown on irrigated lands. Irrigation is needed only in the most unfavorable conditions.
- Farmers own farms. Only a few extra hands are hired during the peak season.
- Winter cold or summer heat can make farming difficult.
- It has become challenging to find a market for Wheat for many years. Farmers are thus inclined towards mixed farming.
The great plains and central lowlands of the Mississippi Basin have extensive farmland. The food produced on these farms is sufficient for the entire population of the United States, with a huge surplus available for export. Consequently, wheat cultivation in the USA differs from the agricultural practices practiced in India and other developing countries in Asia.
American farms are very large. Wheat grown on American farms is transported by truck and rail. It is first tested and graded and then sent to flour mills. Waterways are also used to transport Wheat.
Wheat farming practices in the USA
Wheat is grown commercially in almost every state, but the Great Plains (from Texas to Montana) typically account for at least two-thirds of total production, with Kansas as the leader. Wheat crop grown in the USA is either “Winter Wheat” or “Spring Wheat,” depending on the season in which it is planted. Winter Wheat is sown in the fall season and has some early growth before the cold season arrives.
Plants remain dormant in winter. They begin to grow again and rapidly until the summer harvest in the spring. Winter Wheat typically accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. production. Spring Wheat varieties are planted when the soil is viable and continue to grow until harvest in July-August.
Double cropping and Fallow
Two other production methods that showed wide variation between regions were summer fallow and double-crop. Most American Wheat is grown in areas with low humidity. One of the most common ways to save moisture is through the summer. About 20% of Wheat farms reported summer and autumn use, one-third of the total Wheat area. Pacific Wheat growers planted 53 percent of their Wheat on previously cultivated land, compared to 31 to 33 percent in the plains.
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Less than 5% of Wheat was planted on previously cultivated land in the eastern regions, where double cropping was more common. Conversely, 78% of Wheat was a double crop in the southeast, usually with soybeans. In the North Central region, 21% of Wheat was double harvested. In the central and southern Plains and the Pacific, less than 5% of Wheat was double harvested. Farmers in the northern plains reported no double crop.
Wheat seeds are readily available in the market. When buying seeds, make sure they are good quality, high yielding, and disease-free. Generally, 40 to 50 kg of seed is required per acre. However, the exact number of seeds depends on the variety and method of sowing. Wheat seeds should be sown about 4 to 5 cm deep. Always keep the seeds in rows and keep a distance of 20-22.5 cm between the rows.
Also, make sure that the Wheat seeds are well-sorted and well-cleaned before sowing. Here you can apply a fungicide for seed treatment. Wheat is adapted to extreme weather conditions, but yields are generally better if irrigation is used. Therefore, wheat production is higher in areas that typically use irrigation than in arid areas. However, in most parts of the country, including irrigation farms in the production plan is relatively expensive. Therefore, crop irrigation income depends on relative profitability with different crop systems and without irrigation.
Farm subsidies affect the U.S. economy
The U.S. food supply must be protected from severe weather, such as droughts, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Food production is more critical for the nation’s welfare than any other business product. Farm commodity prices are falling. Commodity traders set prices on the open exchange. They trade futures contracts that promise to buy or sell at a fixed price on a specific date. Farmers can take their chances on the price when it comes to harvesting.
They can close the price with a futures contract. Farmers depend on loans. They take out loans to plant seeds in the spring and repay the loans in the fall when they sell their crops.
- Subsidies protect the country’s food supply
- Farms are mainly susceptible to diseases and weather.
- Subsidies help farmers to change the prices of seasonal commodities.
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Pest and Disease Control
Wheat crops are susceptible to pests and diseases like aphids and termites. Some common diseases in Wheat plants are brown rust, powdery mildew, etc. You can use good-quality pesticides or insecticides to control pests or diseases. You can also consult a local agricultural extension office or an expert who can give you appropriate advice.
When and How to Harvest Wheat
The harvesting process begins when the plant leaves and stems turn yellow and become quite dry. It must be harvested before it is ripe to avoid yield loss. Thus, along with good quality Wheat, timely harvesting is essential for maximum yield. When the moisture content of Wheat reaches about 25 to 30 percent, it is ready for harvesting. However, combine harvesters are available in the market for harvesting, threshing, and weaving Wheat in a single operation.
Wheat exports in the USA
About 50% of Wheat produced in the United States is exported, although global market share has declined due to competition from the European Union, Argentina, Australia, Canada, and, more recently, Russia. Exported Wheat varieties are Hard Red Spring (About 50%), Soft Red Winter, Hard Red Winter, White Wheat (About 66%), and Durum Wheat. However, producers continue to increase exports as Wheat products have not been competitive in the local market in recent years.
If you live in the United States, the above information may help you to start wheat farming from scratch.
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