2012 Wheat Crop Makes Producers Happy, Millers and Bakers Not So MuchWed, 08 Aug 2012 16:10:25 CDT
To the layman, wheat looks about the same year after year and from place to place to place. But, says Mark Hodges of Plains Grains, nothing could be further from the truth. Almost an infinite number of variations in composition and quality make one year’s wheat crop drastically different from those that have gone before and those that will come in the future.
Speaking with Ron Hays at the 2012 Wheat Review, Hodges says different people like to see different things in a wheat crop. Producers want maximum yields. Millers want fat berries and high test weights. Bakers want high protein. Theoretically, a perfect wheat crop would satisfy all their desires. But, this is Oklahoma, Hodges says, and the perfect wheat crop just doesn’t exist.
“Two years ago the crop was really a miller’s crop. We had large berries, something that a miller could get a high mill yield out of. Something he really liked. And probably not the best protein in the world two years ago, so the baker probably wasn’t really satisfied with what he got.
“And then last year we had really good protein, didn’t have a lot of volume, but the baker was really happy with it because he had the protein he needed. The miller probably wasn’t quite as happy because he didn’t get the kind of yield he wanted.
“And then this year was really the producer’s crop. The miller probably isn’t going to be real happy and the baker isn’t going to be real happy, but they’ll figure out a way to deal with it-as they always do. But the producer produced a lot of bushels.”
When looking at the 2012 crop and its suitability to the end user, Hodges says that is very difficult to gauge. As winter ended and spring began with ample rains and unseasonably warm temperatures, the crop appeared poised for a near-perfect performance. Then a hot dry snap late in the season changed the picture. He said assessing the quality of the crop became very difficult because the stressors came so very late in the game.
“While we’ve seen crops that have been stressed and the effects of those stresses, that stress has always been on the front end and not on the back end quite as much as it was this year. And the crop was so far ahead physiologically from spring on until harvest that we just hadn’t seen that before. And that was true all the way from Texas all the way to North Dakota.
“It’s something we haven’t seen before and it’s not something we’ve got our arms completely around yet, but we had individual locations where we had nine percent protein up to 13 or 14 percent being delivered into the same location. And those were producers that were bad managers. A lot of them had plenty of nitrogen. It was the way the crop developed.”
He says average protein across the Southern Plains of Oklahoma and Texas averaged 12.5 percent protein which would normally be considered a good baking crop, but, in some places, the crop was below the five-year average in dough functionality and loaf volume.
“It’s really a mosaic pattern that we really had a hard time getting our arms around, but it is the real reason why we need to be doing the testing that we do, so we can define that information and where the buyer can find what he’s looking for.”
Hodges said that, inevitably, wheat of differing protein contents will be blended to achieve the desired results, but there is always the possibility the end user may not be happy with the results.
“But probably one of the advantages this year was that a lot of the low protein went to the feedlot. And it went early. And we test what’s delivered to the elevators. So what we’re testing is what that crop actually was and maybe not what’s actually being milled into flour.
“So, our hope is that a lot of that low-protein did go into the feed market and that the better protein was left and so we’re going to end up with a crop that the customer likes domestically and internationally. “
You can hear more of the interview with Mark Hodges by pressing on the LISTEN BAR below.
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