Types of Wheat

Wheat is the principal human food grain produced in the United States. Washington is the 4th largest wheat producing state in the nation with more than 2.3 million acres in production. What sets Washington farmer’s apart is their ability to raise, or yield, more wheat on those acres than other states. On average, dryland, or non-irrigated, farmers can raise about 65 bushels per acre. Also, Washington wheat is some of the highest in quality throughout the nation and world.

There are six different wheat classes grown in the U.S.: Hard Red Winter (HRW), Hard Red Spring (HRS), Hard White (HW), Durum, Soft White (SW), and Soft Red Winter (SRW). In the U.S., wheat varieties are classified either as “winter” or “spring” depending on the season each is planted. Winter varieties are sown in the fall and are usually established before the cold weather arrives and then goes dormant over the winter. Typically about 80% of Washington’s total production is winter and 20% is spring.

It is critical to know that wheat is not wheat – in other words, each class has different end-use functions.

The major class of wheat grown in Washington is soft white. Soft white wheat is used mainly for bakery products other than bread. Examples include pastries, cakes, and cookies. It is also used for cereals, flat breads and crackers. It has a lower protein content and weak gluten.

An important bread wheat, HRS, is used in pan breads, and hearth or artisan breads or rolls. It generally has high protein and strong gluten. (Gluten is the result of mixing flour with water. It’s interaction with yeast and allows bread to rise — certainly a necessary factor in bread baking.) Washington farmers are growing more of this type of wheat each year.

HRW is a good wheat for Asian noodles, hard rolls, flat bread, and general purpose flour. It has medium protein and gluten content. Many Washington farmers also grow this class of wheat.

Durum is the hardest of all wheats and is used for pasta, couscous and some Mediterranean breads. This wheat is mostly grown in North Dakota and Montana.

HWW generally serves a dual purpose for Asian noodles or breads and also domestic wholegrain products. This class of wheat is popular among central states such as Nebraska and Colorado.

SRW is used for a wide range of products including pastries, crackers, pancakes, etc. SRW is grown mostly in states east of the Mississippi.

Once the wheat berries are milled, wheat milling by-products such as bran, shorts, and middlings are used in animal feeds.