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Basic Facts

Farming isn't just a hobby or a job for those who grow hard red spring and durum wheat. It is a family-owned business, a home and more importantly... a way of life. An estimated 75,000 farmers in the four-state growing region choose this way of life and in turn help feed the world. They annually produce about 11 to 12 million tons of hard red spring wheat and 2 to 3 million tons of durum, more in some years, less in others, depending on weather conditions, market trends and U.S. government farm programs.

The climate, rich soil and flat land of the Northern Plains are perfectly suited to the production of spring wheat. Fall-seeded winter wheat does not always survive this region's cold winters, but hard red spring and durum are not planted until April, May and early June. Cool spring temperatures and more frequent rains are timed just right for the emergence and early growth of the crop. July, August and September are typically much warmer (between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius) and drier, allowing the wheat to ripen and be harvested.

The time lapse between sowing spring wheat and plant head development is usually 65 to 80 days. It takes another 20 to 30 days for the kernels to ripen for harvest. Farmers know wheat is ready for harvest when plants turn from green to golden yellow in color and the once soft, green, milky kernels become hard and golden red or amber.

Almost all hard red spring and durum wheat grown in the Northern Plains is produced under dry land conditions, not irrigation. Stored soil moisture and timely rains are important to the survival and quality of the crop. Cool, wet growing seasons tend to produce lower protein wheat. Overly hot, dry conditions can stress the wheat resulting in higher protein content and stronger gluten properties. Wet conditions at harvest may cause sprouting.

U.S. farmers realize wheat importers want a reliable supplier that can provide a uniform quality wheat from cargo to cargo and from one year to the next. It is important to remember, however, that wheat is a basic raw material that can exhibit changes in character depending on weather conditions. Wheat quality is related to the fact that the wheat kernel is a living, viable organism. When nature cooperates-and she usually does-U.S. hard red spring and durum wheat have the quality sought after by the milling, baking and pasta industries worldwide.


Bringing Wheat to the World
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Provides information on North Dakota Agriculture and specific facts on HRS and durum production and quality.