Wheat Facts

Facts about Kansas Wheat

  • On average, Kansas is the largest wheat producing state. Nearly one-fifth of all wheat grown in the United States is grown in Kansas. This is why it is called the “Wheat State” and “Breadbasket of the World.”
  • Kansas has about 60,000 farmers, including almost 7,900 women farmers. About 20,000 farmers grow wheat. (Source: Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service)
  • Annual average wheat production in Kansas for the past five years has been about 328 million bushels harvested from an average 8.5 million acres. In 2013, the harvest totaled 328 million bushels. In 2014, the harvest totaled 235 million bushels, down 26 percent from the 2013 crop and lowest in 25 years (1989). Area for grain, at 8.4 million acres, was unchanged from last year. Yield is forecast at 28 bushels per acre, 10 bushels below last year and lowest since 1995. 
  • All the wheat grown in Kansas in a single year would fit in a train stretching from western Kansas to the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Kansas stores more wheat than any other state.
  • On average, Kansas ranks number one in wheat and wheat products exported. Half of the wheat grown in Kansas is used in the United States; the other half is exported.
  • Six classes of wheat are grown in the United States; Kansas produces three of them:
    • Hard Red Winter (95 percent) — High in protein, has strong gluten. Used for yeast breads and rolls. Grown in all Kansas counties. Kansas is responsible for producing 40% of U.S. Hard Red Winter wheat.
    • Soft Red Winter (1 percent) — Used for flat breads, cakes, pastries and crackers. Grown in the eastern part of the state.
    • Hard White (3 percent) — Used for yeast breads, hard rolls, tortillas and noodles. This new class of wheat is grown in the western and central parts of Kansas.
  • Kansas grows winter wheat that is planted and sprouts in the fall, becomes dormant in the winter, grows again in the spring and is harvested in early summer.
  • Russian Mennonite immigrants introduced Turkey Red wheat to Kansas in 1874. This hardy variety, which could grow in Kansas’ dry and cold weather, is the ancestor of all U.S. Hard Red Winter wheat.
  • Wheat is a grass whose seed belongs to the cereal grains group. It contains gluten, the basic structure in forming the dough system for breads, rolls and other baked goods. Other grains have gluten, but not as much as wheat.
  • Kansas is number one in flour milling in the United States.
  • High protein flour obtained from Hard Red Winter wheat is best for making bread. Medium protein flours from Hard Red Winter wheat may also be used for making biscuits, all-purpose flour, quick breads, mixes and other baked goods.
  • Wheat is used for cattle, poultry and other livestock feed. New uses of wheat encompass plastics manufacturing and aquaculture feed purposes for both fish and shrimp.
  • The kernel of wheat is a storehouse of nutrients essential to the human diet. Wheat flour is a good source of complex carbohydrates and a moderate source of protein. It contains very little fat and minimal amounts of sodium absorbed from the soil where it was grown.
  • The three main parts of the wheat kernel are the endosperm, bran and germ.
    • Endosperm — Comprising about 83 percent of the total kernel mass, this is the source of white flour. Enriched flour products contain added quantities of riboflavin, niacin, thiamine and iron in amounts equal to or exceeding whole wheat.
    • Bran — About 14 percent of the kernel, this part is included in whole wheat flour. Bran is the outer coat and is an excellent source of fiber.
    • Germ — About 2.5 percent of the kernel, this is the embryo or sprouting section of the seed. It is usually separated because it contains the fat that limits the keeping quality of flours.
  • Wheat foods are a source of dietary fiber, an indigestible carbohydrate that yields little or no energy but appears to play a role in preventing some types of cancer. The bran and endosperm contain mainly insoluble fiber.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Service’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans stress the need for 5 oz. to 10 oz. of grain products (breads, cereals, rice and pasta) each day.
  • Nutrition experts recommend that at least half of our daily grains come from whole grain products. The total number needed each day depends on age, gender and activity level. MyPyramid.gov can help individuals determine the appropriate amount of foods needed.
  • Wheat is used for many kinds of foods such as breads, cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, cereals, crackers, pasta, flour tortillas and Oriental noodles.
  • One 60-pound bushel of wheat provides about 42 pounds of white flour, enough for about 70, 1 pound loaves of white bread.
  • Each American consumes about 134 pounds of wheat flour per year.
  • The Kansas Wheat Commission was created by state law in 1957. It is funded by the state’s wheat producers and is directed by a board of nine commissioners who are also wheat producers.

Grains of Truth

Learn more about the world’s most consumed grain by reading through the following “Grains of Truth.”

  • Wheat is a member of the grass family that produces a dry one-seeded fruit commonly called a kernel. More than 17,000 years ago, humans gathered the seeds of plants and ate them. After rubbing off the husks, early people simply chewed the kernels raw, parched or simmered. Wheat originated in the “cradle of civilization” in the Tigris and Euphrates river valley, near what is now Iraq. The Roman goddess, Ceres, who was deemed protector of the grain, gave grains their common name today “cereal.”
  • Wheat was first planted in the United States in 1777 as a hobby crop.
  • Wheat is the primary grain used in U.S. grain products approximately three-quarters of all U.S. grain products are made from wheat flour. (Source: USDA)
  • In the year 1850, U.S. per capita wheat flour consumption reached 205 pounds, up from 170 pounds in 1830.
  • Wheat is grown in 42 states in the United States.
  • Six classes bring order to the thousands of varieties of wheat. They are: Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Soft Red Winter, Durum, Hard White and Soft White.
  • More foods are made with wheat than any other cereal grain.
  • U.S. farmers grow nearly 2.4 billion bushels of wheat on 63 million acres of land. (Source: USDA)
  • About half of the wheat grown in the United States is used domestically. (Source: USDA).
  • The state of Kansas is the largest wheat producer in the United States with North Dakota a close second.

All About Bushels

  • A bushel of wheat makes about forty-five 24-ounce boxes of wheat flake cereal.
  • In the United States, one acre of wheat yields an average 37.1 bushels of wheat.
  • One bushel of wheat contains approximately one million individual kernels.
  • One bushel of wheat weighs approximately 60 pounds.
  • One bushel of wheat yields approximately 42 pounds of white flour.
  • One bushel of wheat yields approximately 60 pounds of whole-wheat flour.
  • A bushel of wheat yields 42 commercial loaves of white bread (one-and-a-half pound loaves).
  • A bushel of wheat makes about 90 one-pound loaves of whole wheat bread.
  • There are approximately 16 ounces of flour in a one-and-a-half pound loaf of bread.
  • A one-and-a-half pound loaf of commercial bread contains 24 slices.
  • Before 1930, bread was sliced the old fashioned way: by hand.

Bagel Bites

  • The first bagel rolled into the world in 1683 when a baker from Vienna Austria was thankful to the King of Poland for saving Austria from Turkish invaders. The baker reshaped the local bread so that it resembled the King’s stirrup. The new bread was called “beugel,” derived from the German word stirrup, “bugel.”
  • The traditional bagel is the only bread product that is boiled before it is baked.
  • Prepackaged bagels first became available in grocery stores in the 1950s. (Source: Einstein Brothers History of Bagels)
  • In 1960, the frozen bagel made its introduction and consumers had access to bagels even if they didn’t live near a bakery. (Source: Einstein Brothers History of Bagels)
  • To revive several-day-old bagels, microwave very briefly (15 seconds), or moisten with water and bake for 10 minutes in a 350 oven or simply toast them.
  • Never refrigerate bagels or any bread product. Bread products go stale up to 6 times faster in the refrigerator. Leave at room temperature or freeze.

A Primer for Pasta and Pizza

  • Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing the first “maccoroni’ machine to America in 1789 when he returned home after serving as ambassador to France.
  • A bushel of wheat makes about 42 pounds of pasta.
  • Durum wheat is used to make pasta because of its hard nature, which produces a firm cooked product.
  • Semolina is coarsely ground durum with a texture somewhat like sugar. It is the best product for pasta.
  • There are more than 600 pasta shapes produced worldwide.
  • In 1889, an Italian tavem owner named Don Raffaele Esposito developed a pizza featuring tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil - ingredients bearing the colors of the Italian flag. He named it the Margherita Pizza, after the Queen of Italy, Margherita Teresa Giovanni. Thus, modem-day tomato-and- cheese pizza was born.
  • Ninety-three percent of Americans eat AT LEAST one pizza per month. (Source: Bolia Wines.)
  • Approximately 3 billion pizzas are sold in the United States each year.
  • Each man, woman and child in America eats an average of 46 slices, (23 pounds), of pizza per year. (Source: Packaged Facts, New York.)

Cracker Conversation

  • The graham cracker was named for its inventor, Sylvester Graham, a 19th-century American clergyman and nutrition advocate.
  • The early crackers, or ‘biscuits” as the English called them, were handmade, hard-baked products made from flour and a little moisture. The low level of moisture, decreased even further with baking, left no medium for molds to grow. Made with little fat, rancidity was not a concern.
  • A soda cracker barrel was the method of marketing as long as cracker production was localized. At the turn of the century, Adolphus Green laid the foundation for the modern cracker baking system that is used today.
  • Crackers main ingredient is unbleached flour from soft red or soft white wheat.