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Wheat Facts

Wheat Classes

The agricultural areas of the United States differ dramatically in topography, soils and climate. Because of these differences, the United States produces a wide variety of crops, each suited to its own locale. Wheat is a typical example. Wheat is grown in most of the 50 states of the United States. The kind of wheat grown and the quantity vary widely from one region to another. Thus, an importer or domestic miller can be readily assured of obtaining the type of wheat they need by selecting the proper class. Plant breeding lies at the heart of assuring continued improvements in the production and quality of U.S. wheat. Wheat improvement work had its formal beginning in 1897 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture set up an active program of wheat research and development. Today, the variety development program is carried out by experiment stations maintained by a number of states as part of their agricultural college and university systems. The experiment stations are the primary source of new wheat varieties and help to maintain the uniformity within a wheat class. Plant scientists at these federal and state stations are guided not only by the need of farmers for high-yielding wheats that resist drought and disease, but also by the quality requirements of millers and bakers at home and abroad.

Six Basic Classes

The many varieties of winter and spring wheat are grouped into six official classes. The class a variety fits into is determined by its hardness, the color of its kernels and by its planting time. Each class of wheat has its own relatively uniform characteristics related to milling, baking or other food use.
  • Red Winter (HRW) is an important bread wheat which accounts for almost forty percent of the U.S. wheat crop and wheat exports. This fall-seeded wheat is produced in the Great Plains, which extend from the Mississippi River west to the Rocky Mountains and from the Dakotas and Montana south to Texas. Significant quantities are also produced in California. HRW has a moderately high protein content, usually averaging 11-12%, and good milling and baking characteristics. There are no subclasses of this class.
  • Hard Red Spring (HRS), another important bread wheat, maintains the highest protein content, usually 13-14%, in addition to good milling and baking characteristics. This spring-seeded wheat is primarily grown in the north central United States--North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana. HRS comprises just over twenty percent of U.S. wheat exports. Subclasses based upon the dark, hard and vitreous kernel content (DHV), include dark northern spring, northern spring and red spring.
  • Hard White (HW) is the newest class of wheat to be grown in the United States. It is used for noodles, yeast breads and flat breads and is grown in California, Idaho, Kansas and Montana. There are no subclasses. Currently, HW is used primarily in domestic markets with limited quantities being exported. It is anticipated that exports of this class will increase.
  • Soft White (SW) is a preferred wheat for flat breads, cakes, pastries, crackers and noodles and is grown primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Soft white is a low protein wheat, usually about 10%. SW represents just over twenty percent of total U.S. exports, primarily to Asia and the Middle East. Subclasses are soft white, white club and western white.
  • Soft Red Winter (SRW) is grown in the eastern third of the United States. SRW is a high yielding wheat, but relatively low in protein, usually about 10%. SRW is used for cakes, pastries, flat breads, crackers and snack foods. This fall-seeded wheat comprises about fourteen percent of U.S. wheat exports. There are no subclasses of this class.
  • Durum, the hardest of all U.S. wheats, provides semolina for spaghetti, macaroni and other pasta products. This spring-seeded wheat is grown primarily in the same northern areas as hard red spring, while smaller winter-sown quantities are grown in Arizona and California. Durum comprises nearly five percent of total U.S. wheat exports. Subclasses are hard amber durum, amber durum and durum.


  • Wheat is a member of the grass family that produces a dry one-seeded fruit commonly called a kernel. More than 17,000 years ago, humans gathered the seeds of plants and ate them. After rubbing off the husks, early people simply chewed the kernels raw, parched or simmered. Wheat originated in the "cradle of civilization" in the Tigris and Euphrates river valley, near what is now Iraq. The Roman goddess, Ceres, who was deemed protector of the grain, gave grains their common name today — "cereal."
  • Below you will find some fun facts and little tidbits on wheat and wheat products. We hope you find this informational and useful.
  • Wheat was first planted in the United States in 1777 as a hobby crop.
  • Wheat is the primary grain used in U.S. grain products — approximately three-quarters of all U.S. grain products are made from wheat flour. (Source: USDA)
  • In the year 1850, U.S. per capita wheat flour consumption reached 205 pounds, up from 170 pounds in 1830.
  • Wheat is grown in 42 states in the United States.
  • Six classes bring order to the thousands of varieties of wheat. They are: Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Soft Red Winter, Durum, Hard White and Soft White.
  • More foods are made with wheat than any other cereal grain.
  • U.S. farmers grow nearly 2.4 billion bushels of wheat on 63 million acres of land. (Source: USDA)
  • About half of the wheat grown in the United States is used domestically. (Source: USDA)
  • The state of Kansas is the largest wheat producer in the United States with North Dakota a close second.
  • In the United States, one acre of wheat yields an average 37.1 bushels of wheat.
  • One bushel of wheat contains approximately one million individual kernels.
  • One bushel of wheat weighs approximately 60 pounds.
  • One bushel of wheat yields approximately 42 pounds of white flour.
  • One bushel of wheat yields approximately 60 pounds of whole-wheat flour.
  • A bushel of wheat yields 42 commercial loaves of white bread (one-and-a-half pound loaves).
  • A bushel of wheat makes about 90 one-pound loaves of whole wheat bread.
  • There are approximately 16 ounces of flour in a one-and-a-half pound loaf of bread.
  • A one-and-a-half pound loaf of commercial bread contains 24 slices.
  • Before 1930, bread was sliced the old fashioned way: by hand.
  • The first bagel rolled into the world in 1683 when a baker from Vienna Austria was thankful to the King of Poland for saving Austria from Turkish invaders. The baker reshaped the local bread so that it resembled the King’s stirrup. The new bread was called "beugel," derived from the German word stirrup, "bugel."
  • The traditional bagel is the only bread product that is boiled before it is baked.
  • Prepackaged bagels first became available in grocery stores in the 1950s. (Source: Einstein Brothers History of Bagels)
  • In 1960, the frozen bagel made its introduction and consumers had access to bagels even if they didn't live near a bakery. (Source: Einstein Brothers History of Bagels)
  • To revive several-day-old bagels, microwave very briefly (15 seconds), or moisten with water and bake for 10 minutes in a 350 oven or simply toast them.
  • Never refrigerate bagels or any bread product. Bread products go stale up to 6 times faster in the refrigerator. Leave at room temperature or freeze.
Taken in part or whole from Kansaswheat.org
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