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Projected bread wheat shortages due to crop failures worldwide have pumped prices up and spurred interest in growing hard red winter wheat in the upper Southeast. Several new and upcoming varieties being tested by Virginia Tech University hold great promise for bread wheat production in the area.
Grouped into market classes
Virginia Tech small grains specialist Wade Thomason explains that wheat is grouped into market classes associated with the type of wheat grown and its intended end-use. Wheat classes are determined not only by the time of planting and harvest but also by hardness, color, and shape of the kernel. Wheat within each class has similar characteristics as related to milling, baking, and food use qualities.
The major classes are hard red winter wheat (HRWW), hard red spring wheat, soft red winter wheat (SRWW), durum, hard white wheat, and soft white wheat. Hard red winter wheat is usually grown in semi-arid regions, has a wide range of protein content, usually averaging near 12 percent, and has good milling and baking characteristics for producing bread, rolls, and all-purpose flour.
Soft red winter wheat is grown primarily in higher rainfall areas. It is generally higher yielding than HRWW, but has lower protein content, usually less than 10 percent, and has good milling and baking properties for cookies, cakes, crackers, and some flat breads.
Soft white wheat is grown mainly in the Pacific Northwest, Michigan, Wisconsin, and New York. Its protein content is similar to SRWW, and the flour is used mainly for making cakes, muffins, cookies and pastries.
Hard white wheat is a relatively new wheat class. It is closely related to the HRWW but has a milder, sweeter flavor and is used mainly in yeast breads, hard rolls, bulgur,and oriental noodles.
Durum wheat has the hardest kernels of all U.S. wheat. It is a spring wheat that is grown mainly in the northern Great Plains. Durum wheat is used to make semolina flour for pasta production.
The Gold Standard of bread wheat quality is Karl 92 variety. Though it has been surpassed by a number of other higher yielding varieties, Karl 92 is the variety by which quality standards are measured.
In tests in Virginia, Karl 92 had a bread score of 5, but was not one of the higher yielding varieties in the test. Hall notes that Karl 92 is still grown on a limited basis in the Midwest.
Culpepper is an AgriPro release that produced 61 bushels per acre and a bread score of 4.5. Heading date for Culpepper was 125 days.
Vision 20 is another bread wheat variety, released by Virginia Tech in 2008. In 2009, Vision 20 produced 64 bushels per acre, but a bread wheat score of only 3.5.
Lakin, a Kansas State University variety release, is a white bread wheat variety. In Virginia in 2009, it produced 59 bushels per acre. It is a somewhat early variety, with a heading date of 123 and a bread wheat score of 4.