by Blaine Jacobson
Production of Hard White Wheat in Idaho surged this year, in response to domestic millers offering contracts (see Idaho Grain, Spring, 2006). The estimated 2006 harvest of Hard White Wheat is estimated to be 3.7 million bushels, up nearly 50% from the prior year’s harvest.
The increased production still fell short of demand from Idaho’s domestic customers. Nearly every field of Hard White Wheat in Idaho, particularly the southern part of the state, was sold by harvest time, contingent on making required protein. Pent-up domestic demand bodes well for another increase in production of this class for next year.
Had production been available, Idaho growers likely could have sold eight or nine million bushels of Hard White Wheat this year, double what actual production was according to Blaine Jacobson, Executive Director of the Idaho Wheat Commission. “Demand for good quality Hard White Wheat has been terrific this year and will continue to be so into the foreseeable future”, he said.
Driving the domestic growth of Hard White Wheat is consumer demand for whole grain foods. Millers are able to use more of the Hard White kernel in their flour than they are with Hard Red kernels. Hard White Wheat produces a lighter color in whole grain breads and better color stability in noodles. Consumers prefer the sweeter taste of products made with Hard White Wheat while enjoying the bitter flavor produced some of the tannins in Hard Red Wheat.
In addition, millers get up to 3% better extraction from Hard White Wheat than they do from Hard Red. The improvement in extraction means that each bushel of Hard White Wheat yields up to a pound of extra flour, and this might carry as much as a $.10/bushel premium for the grower.
The Idaho Wheat Commission is trying to capture more of this rapidly growing market by working with growers and shippers to create pockets of critical mass so the harvested wheat can be shipped to millers in cost-effective quantities. In addition, research into varieties of Hard White Wheat with better agronomic qualities continues. This year, Idaho researchers are releasing two new varieties of HW wheat. UI Lochsa is a spring variety and UI Darwin is a winter variety. Both are expected to assist Idaho growers in their efforts grow wheat for the Hard White customer.