Wichita Spurred by government incentives and proven yields, Kansas farmers will cut more hard white winter wheat this season, estimates show.
Most of the 300,000 to 350,000 acres of hard white wheat grown in the state are planted in the western third of Kansas, said Ron Madl, administrator of Kansas State University's industrial value-added programs.
White wheat acres roughly tripled for the 2003 crop, he said.
Those estimates are slightly higher than the official numbers put out by the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service, which estimated the white wheat acres at closer to 237,000 this year in the state.
Yet to be seen is how its production stacks up this year in parched southwest Kansas.
"Unfortunately -- in some areas where the hard white wheat is grown -- the rains came too late," said Justin Gilpin, project coordinator for the Kansas Wheat Commission. "I'm personally anxious to see what the production comes in at for hard white wheat."
While white wheat acreage numbers are up in Kansas, they have yet to reach the "critical mass" needed to supply export markets, Gilpin said.
But their acreage has been growing each year as newer white varieties are proven to wary Kansas farmers and as the government offers more incentives for farmers to make the switch from the traditional reds to the white varieties.
"The new farm bill provided some pretty good incentives for growers to increase their plantings, and I think they have taken advantage of it based on the estimates we have for acreage," Madl said.
The government incentives provide farmers an additional 20 cents a bushel, up to 60-bushels an acre, for hard white wheat harvested, Gilpin said. It also provides $2 per acre for planted certified hard white seed.
White wheat doesn't have the red bran coating of hard red wheat, and more flour can be extracted so bread and other products have a milder, sweeter flavor. Millers also are able to leave bran -- a major source of fiber and nutrients -- on white wheat. White wheat also is preferred for noodles. International demand includes the North African and Middle Asian flat bread markets.
Kansas farmers planted 10.3 million acres of both white and red wheat varieties last fall, according to the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service.
It is uncertain how much of those acres have been abandoned, but William Tierney Jr., a Kansas State University agricultural economist, has estimated the state's farmers will cut 9.36 million acres of it.
Throughout southern Kansas, once green stands of wheat are turning amber -- signaling harvest is not too far away.
With wheat harvest in southern Kansas likely a week or so away, the state is gearing up its 19 harvest offices to help match custom cutters with wheat growers.
This season, the Department of Human Resources added two new harvest offices, in Sublette and Tribune, said Joyce Heiman, wheat harvest coordinator for the department.