Quality Wheat Pays Off


ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- If the country's wheat farmers needed another incentive to grow award-winning, high quality wheat, they just got one.

Next year's 2022 National Wheat Yield Contest will give out $500 cash rewards to national winners whose 6-lb. wheat samples reach certain quality standards. The contest, now in its sixth year, has tested the winning wheat samples for quality metrics since 2018. But rewarding growers for them was a calculated addition to next year's program, said Anne Osborne, project manager for the National Wheat Foundation, which sponsors the contest. (DTN/Progressive Farmer is the official media sponsor of the contest.)

"The farmers who enter this contest are very aware of the need for quality wheat, but for the most part, you don't get paid for quality the minute you drop it off at the elevator, so it doesn't necessarily stick in their mind," the way yield targets might, Osborne said.

Osborne hopes the rewards will help push growers to learn what agronomic practices can get their wheat to "industry-desired" quality standards that she developed with the help of wheat end users and contest sponsors such as millers and bakers.

The standards will include well-known metrics such as test weight and protein levels. But they also include more technical specs such as falling number, which measures how long it takes a plunger to fall down through a water-flour mixture, thus measuring the strength of the flour's starch.

Another standard for hard wheats is based on a Farinograph test, wherein a dough mixer measures the water absorption of the flour, its mixing time and the dough's consistency. Soft wheats will be put through an Alveograph instead, a device that blows a bubble up through a dough sample, and tests how long it takes for the dough bubble to pop and collapse.

The final standard for the wheat samples is a simple, but essential one: The flour will be baked into a small, 100-gram loaf and scrutinized for its volume. For the soft wheats, the baking test will be even sweeter -- the samples will be analyzed for the quality of sponge cake or sugar cookies they produce.

(For a fuller story on how the nation's wheat and flour is tested by U.S. wheat testing labs, see this DTN story here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…).

Each kind of wheat -- hard red spring, hard red winter, soft red winter, soft white wheat and hard white wheat -- will have its own set of numbers to hit for each of these standards in order to trigger the $500 cash reward.

You can see those exact rules here, in the 2022 Wheat Yield Contest Entry and Harvest Rules: https://yieldcontest.wheatfoundation.org/….

Only Grade 1 or Grade 2 wheat samples are eligible for state or national award categories in the wheat yield contest, as usual. But for the 2022 contest, farmers will be required to have their wheat graded by a local elevator, instead of the contest organizers having it done.

Otherwise, the 2022 yield contest will remain familiar to past participants. It will still offer 24 national categories, some rewarding high yield, others rewarding the percent a field yields above its five-year county average.


These new rules won't apply to the ongoing 2021 National Wheat Yield contest, which is wrapping up this month. Wheat growers have until Sept. 15 to mail in their yield samples and by Oct. 1 all harvest data on that sample must be submitted, Osborne said.

So far, the contest has netted 387 total entries this year, down 7% from last year, but the third strongest year for the contest, she said. Entries were down 40% for spring wheat, much of which is grown in the droughty Northern Plains, but winter wheat entries increased 3%.

"The entries were so good, and I'm really surprised, given how dry it was for some growers," Osborne said. "We're very happy with what we're seeing and, so far, the quality is very good, except for a few growers that ran into wet weather at harvest."

See more on the 2021 contest's rules and harvest requirements here: https://yieldcontest.wheatfoundation.org/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

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