Farming Wheat for Business
You might be giving farming wheat some serious thoughts. Wheat remains as one of the most important crops despite the decline in the consumption of flour and flour products as more Americans cut down on carbohydrates in their diet.
This article will guide you with what you need to know about farming wheat and what it entails to be a wheat farmer.
Starting as a hobby crop in the US in 1777, wheat has transformed into a serious farming business, ranking number four as the leading field crop and the US’ leading export crop.
Wheat is part of the grass family, producing dry, one-seeded fruit we commonly call a kernel. An acre of wheat produces an average of around 40 bushels or approximately 2,400 pounds of wheat.
Varieties of modern wheat are usually grouped into winter wheats and spring wheats. Winter wheats are more commonly-grown, comprising about three-fourths of wheat produced in the US.
The varieties of wheat are:
- Hard wheat – its flour is used for making bread, rolls, fine cakes, and to a lesser extent for sweet goods and all-purpose flour.
- White and soft-wheat – have starchy and paler kernels and are used for piecrust, biscuits and other breakfast foods, cakes, cookies and prepared mixes.
- Durum – is the hardest-kernelled wheat and is used to make pasta products like macaroni and spaghetti.
Wheat is also used in making whiskey and beer. Its grains, the bran (which is the residue from milling), and the vegetative plant parts make valuable livestock feed.
Planting and harvest season of wheat differs for each variety throughout the year. Planting season for winter wheat is in the fall and harvested in early summer while spring wheat is in the spring and harvested in the fall.
Wheat farming in the US
The US is the world’s fourth largest producer of wheat, having produced nearly 2.4 billion bushels from 63 million acres in 2008/2009. Since 1960, wheat production has doubled worldwide despite wheat being a difficult crop to grow since harvest can be affected by too little rain, too much rain and wrong timing of rainfall during the year. These weather factors can rot the heads of the wheat, rendering the entire crop not suitable for human consumption.
Kansas is the largest state producer of wheat in the US. Other major producers are the Ohio Valley, East Oregon, Washington and the prairie states.
One of the challenges that you will face when you start your wheat farm is the relatively low price of wheat. Since the 1950s, the price of wheat has declined yearly by -2.7 percent at the average. With wheat prices unable to match inflation, more and more farmers are looking at other more lucrative crops to grow.
High-yield wheat requires high concentrations of fertilizer and adequate irrigation. Most wheat farmers use large-scale mechanized farming methods which means you need to invest on equipment for your farm. You will need the combine – a self-propelled machine – for cutting and separating the grain. Grains are then stored in the bin of the machine. When the bin is already full, grains are deposited into a truck that brings the load to a grain elevator for storage.
Other equipment that you will need are a tractor preferably with dual rear wheels, planter, sprayer, and gravity wagons or semi trailers where you can put the grains once the combine bin is full.
As in any other business, you must create a business plan before starting your wheat farm to help you plan for your success. You should identify what niche your wheat farming business will be servicing. Wheat farmers in the US produce wheat for processing foods and feeds, and wheat seed for cropping.
To help you get an idea how much you can potentially harvest from your intended farm, do a research among the farmers in your community to determine the highest yield recorded in the area. This will be a good target for your farm.
Here are some things you can consider when increasing your potential harvest:
- It will be more costly and more difficult to manage diseases and pests in a dense crop.
- Before adding manpower or any materials, evaluate whether the additional costs can be recovered by the increase in harvest.
- Every time you use chemical inputs, it will have a long-term impact in the sustainability of your farm.
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