Spring (wheat) Fever

Early this morning, the nation watched and waited for the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil to make his grand appearance. His emergence was not accompanied by his shadow, but instead excitement, unveiling a forecasted early spring.

While most other crops are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall, wheat’s planting and harvesting seasons depends on the variety.

There are six different classes of wheat:

  • Hard Red Winter
  • Hard Red Spring
  • Soft Red Winter
  • Hard White
  • Soft White
  • Durum

Winter wheat is planted in the fall or winter and then harvested in the spring and summer. On the other hand, spring wheat is planted in the spring and then harvested in the summer and fall.

Wheat map

The variety planted in the spring is called hard red spring wheat and is generally used in artisan wheat foods like hearth breads, rolls, croissants, bagels and pizza crust. It’s high protein content of around 13-16% is linked to additional gluten, which you can see first-hand when baking wheat foods. Gluten helps bread keep its shape, and is used in many wheat blends.

Hard red spring wheat is most commonly grown in North Dakota, the leading wheat-producing state. It is also grown in Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota. The wheat is then kept for domestic use and is also exported to over 70 foreign countries, with Asia importing over half of all the U.S. spring wheat exports.

Spring is a busy time for wheat farmers. Farmers must determine the perfect seed variety well before the upcoming spring planting season. It is crucial to a successful harvest outcome that grower’s choose a high quality seed variety that matches the specific climate and soil type. Farmers also monitor fields to finalize suitable growing conditions. It is important to plant in fields with low weed and disease pressure and well-drained soils.

Farmers continue to care for the crop even after it has been harvested in the fall. Some wheat grain is stored and dried for an easier transfer to the mills and processing companies that provide wheat products for our kitchen table.

Whether you are looking forward to the early spring or saving the snow from melting, remember America’s wheat farmers are hard at work in all four seasons.