Overview: The 2019 HRW wheat crop was a sharp contrast to the 2018 crop when moisture was very limiting throughout the growing season leading to a low production year, but with protein concentration in the kernel. The 2019 crop was planted and developed in a favorable environment throughout the growing season including abundant rainfall late in the growing season. The growing season was so favorable the crop in most areas matured 10 days to 2 weeks later than normal. The environment effect was virtually no stress in the crop in the Northern, Central and Southern Plains while areas of the Pacific Northwest and Montana battled weather extremes. These conditions provided for record, or near record, yields and larger than normal compact kernels (high TKW and kernel diameter) where favorable conditions existed. However, testing would also indicate that even though mix times and tolerances are shorter than the five-year averages, the loaf volumes achieved indicate there is adequate protein quality to make an excellent quality loaf of bread (exceeded the 5-year average loaf volume). This crop meets or exceeds typical HRW contract specifications and provides high value to the customer.
Weather and Harvest: The 2019 US Hard Red Winter (HRW) wheat crop planted area continues to hover at historic 100 year lows. However, the 2019 HRW production is estimated at 840 million bushels (22.9 MMT) and is up 27% from the 2018 crop of 662 million bushels (18.0 MMT) while planted area remained virtually unchanged. Large beginning world stocks and low prices (still below the cost of production) partially offset the marked production increase. USDA estimated the HRW supply (excluding imports) at the 3rd highest in the last 20 years. Variable conditions challenged this crop like most years, but moisture remained adequate, or even excessive in the central and southern production areas especially, resulting generally in better than expected yields, lower than average protein, but otherwise good milling and processing characteristics. Throughout the Southern, Central and Northern Plains an unusually wet spring from late April to early June (many areas saw 20 inches (50 cm) or more over that period accompanied by severe weather) uniformly delaying harvest 2 weeks or more. At the same time the Pacific Northwest and Montana experienced abnormal swings in temperature and severe storms. Disease and insect pressure in most production areas was unusually low considering the intense and prolonged moisture received during the later stages of crop development. Overall, these conditions favored kernel size, weight and number of kernels developed.
Samples and Methods: Sample collection and analysis were conducted in a collaborative effort between the USDA/ARS Hard Winter Wheat Quality Lab, Manhattan, Kansas, American Institute of Baking (AIB), Enid Grain Inspection and Plains Grains, Inc., a private non-profit company designed to do quality testing of the Hard Red Winter Wheat crop. 494 (99% of the long-term average) samples were collected from grain elevators when at least 30% of the local harvest was completed in the 11 states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Official grade and non-grade parameters were determined on each sample. 106 composites were then formed based on production regions and protein ranges of < 11.5%, 11.5% – 12.5%, and >12.5% for overall kernel characteristics. Milling, dough functionality and bake tests were run on 74 composites. Results by protein ranges were then segregated by export region and reported by tributary as well as overall. Sampling was targeted at testing over 80% of the Hard Red Winter Wheat production in the 11 states referenced above with weighting factors applied based on production and protein ranges calculated. The analytical methods used to define the reported parameters are described in the Analysis Methods section of this book.
Wheat and Grade Data: The overall composite 2019 HRW crop official grade averaged 93% Grade #2 or better (Gulf tributary averaging 91% and PNW tributary averaging 97%) when considering all samples. The overall dockage level of 0.5% is comparable to last year’s average of 0.5% and slightly better than the 5-year average of 0.6%. Total defects of 1.3% are below last year’s average of 1.4% and 5-year average of 1.4%. Foreign material is 0.2% and is comparable to last year’s 0.2% and the 5-year average of 0.2% while shrunken and broken (0.8%) is significantly below to last year’s 1.1% and below the 5-year average of 1.0%(0.9% and 1.2%. Wheat ash (14% mb) is 1.50% and comparable to last year’s 1.49% and below the 5-year average of 1.51%. Overall test weight averaged 60.6 lb/bu (79.6 kg/hl) is below last year’s 60.9 lb/bu (80.2 kg/hl), but is above the 5-year average of 60.3 lb/bu (79.3 kg/hl). The overall average thousand kernel weight of 32.7 g significantly exceeds last year and the 5-year average (both 30.7 g). Average kernel diameter is 2.66 mm is well above last year and 5-year average (2.60 mm and 2.61 mm respectively). However, the average protein of 11.4% is significantly below last year’s 12.4% and the 5-year average of 12.2%. Overall kernel characteristics were outstanding in the 2019 crop with protein quantity (not quality) being of the most concern. Protein content splits varied across the testing region and by tributary with approximately 60% of samples being in the < 11.5% protein content category, 28% in the 11.5% – 12.5% category and 12% in the < 12.5% category. The average wheat falling number for this crop is 378 seconds, and is comparable to the 2018 average of 374 seconds and the 5-year average of 384 seconds and is indicative of sound wheat.
Flour and Baking Data: The Buhler flour yield overall averaged 74.0% and comparable to the 2018 average of 75.1% and the 5-year average of 75.5%. However, flour ash is 0.48% (14% mb) and is comparable to 2018 (0.44%), but significantly lower than the 5-year average (0.55%). The W value of 223 (10-4 J) is significantly lower than last year’s 280 (10-4 J), but is comparable to the 5-year average of 234 (10-4 J). Overall average bake absorption is 62.7% which is below the 2018 absorption of 63.7% and comparable to the 5-year average of 63.0%. Farinograph development and stability times are 3.3 minutes and 7.3 minutes respectively as compared to last year’s 5.2 minutes and 12.2 minutes respectively. Both are lower than the 5-year averages of 4.9 minutes and 8.2 minutes respectively. Overall loaf volume averaged 863cc and while lower than 2018 (901cc), is comparable the 5-year average of 851cc.