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Wheat in Indiana – How is it Used?

As wheat harvest in Indiana approaches completion, one might ask, “How is our wheat used?” It can be fed to livestock, and it is used in several types of foods. However, it may surprise you to learn that our wheat is not typically used to make bread.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Economic Research Service (ERS), wheat ranks third behind corn and soybeans among U.S. field crops in planted acreage, production, and gross farm receipts. In Indiana, a similar ranking holds, although slightly more soybeans were planted in 2022. In the typical corn-soybean crop rotation that many Indiana farmers practice, the ratio of corn to soybeans is nearly 50-50 each year, while wheat gets worked into other crop rotations.

USDA-ERS states that wheat is the principal food grain produced in the United States. The three primary varieties of the grain domestically sown are winter wheat, spring wheat, and durum wheat.

The three categories of wheat can be disaggregated into five major classes: Hard Red Winter (HRW), Hard Red Spring (HRS), Soft Red Winter (SRW), white, and durum. Each class has a somewhat different end use and production tends to be region-specific. In Indiana, we raise Soft Red Winter wheat.

USDA-ERS describes each type of wheat, its growing region, and its main uses.

Hard Red Winter wheat accounts for about 40 percent of total production and is grown primarily in the Great Plains (northern Texas through Montana). HRW is principally used to make bread flour.

Hard Red Spring wheat accounts for about 25 percent of production and is grown primarily in the Northern Plains (North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, and South Dakota). HRS wheat is valued for its high protein levels, which makes it suitable for specialty breads and blending with lower-protein wheat.

Soft Red Winter wheat typically accounts for about 15–20 percent of total production and is grown primarily in states along the Mississippi River and eastern states. Flour produced from milling-grade SRW is used for cakes, cookies, and crackers.

White wheat (both winter and spring) accounts for 12–17 percent of total production and is grown in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Michigan, and New York. Its flour is used for noodle products, crackers, cereals, and crusted white breads.

Durum wheat accounts for 2–5 percent of total production and is grown primarily in North Dakota and Montana. Durum wheat is used in pasta production.

Soft Red Winter wheat, the type we grow in Indiana, is planted in the fall and harvested early the next summer. This is the type of wheat typically used in pastries, cakes, cereals, crackers, flatbreads, and cookies. As stated earlier, you’ll notice that traditional bread is not on that list – a common misconception.

Wheat can also be used as livestock feed. Sometimes it is used as a substitute or partial substitute for corn in rations when corn supplies are short or comparatively expensive. Other times it is simply a feed component. When using wheat in livestock rations, some grain processing may be needed, such as coarse cracking or dry rolling, to achieve more efficient utilization of the feed component.

A by-product of wheat after grain harvest is straw. Straw is baled and used for livestock bedding and in some livestock rations. 

According to the most recent statistics available, Whitley County harvested 4,370 acres of wheat in 2022, with an average yield of 75.5 bushels per acre. In 2022, Whitley County ranked 9th among Indiana counties in winter wheat production. The top three wheat-producing counties in 2022 were Posey, Knox, and Allen. Statewide, Indiana farmers harvested 240,000 acres of wheat in 2022 at an average yield of 81.0 bushels per acre. Indiana ranks 18th among all states in winter wheat production.

For more information, access the referenced USDA article at:

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