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.
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. MyPlate.gov can help individuals determine the appropriate amount of foods needed.
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.
Wheat is also used for cattle, poultry and other livestock feed. New uses of wheat encompass plastics manufacturing and aquaculture feed purposes for both fish and shrimp.
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: National Agricultural Statistics Service)
Annual average wheat production in Kansas for the past five years has been about 320 million bushels harvested from an average 7.5 million acres.
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. 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.
- 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.
Kansas is one of the top flour milling states in the United States. There are 12 flour mills and a total capacity of 114,626 cwts. (Source: world-grain.com, 2019)