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Hard Red Spring Wheat

Hard Red Spring Wheat Production

Hard red spring wheat (HRS) is grown mostly in the northern areas of the country, where summers are generally mild and not too hot for young, tender plants.  HRS is planted from April through late May and harvest in August and September.

The majority of the HRS – about 95 percent – is grown in the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and South Dakota.  Idaho and Washington also grow HRS.

North Dakota accounts for slightly more than half of the annual U.S. HRS production.

U.S. acreage averages 12.5 million acres with production of 500 million bushels.  The recent average U.S. yield for HRS is 45 bushels per acre.  Producers in North Dakota plant 6 million acres of HRS on average with production averaging 265 million bushels.

About half of the U.S. HRS crop is used domestically each year, while the other half is exported to approximately 50 countries around the world.

More than half of the exported wheat heads to Asian countries and Central and South American countries account for another fourth of the market.  Smaller percentages of HRS exports go to Europe and African/Middle East markets.


HRS Quality

Hard red spring wheat stands out as the aristocrat of wheat for baking bread. Hard red spring has the highest protein content of all U.S. wheats (usually 13 to 16 percent) which, in turn, corresponds with greater gluten content. Some of the world’s finest yeast breads, hard rolls, bagels, and pizza crusts are made with HRS.

Flours mills also use HRS extensively as a blending wheat to increase the gluten strength in batches of flour.  Adding HRS to lower protein wheat improves dough handling and mixing characteristics as well as water absorption.

Subclasses for HRS are based on vitreous kernel content.  For HRS, the subclasses are:
  • Dark Northern Spring (DNS) – at least 75 percent or more dark, hard, vitreous kernels
  • Northern Spring (NS) – between 25 and 74 percent dark, hard, vitreous kernels
  • Red Spring (RS) – less than 25 percent dark, hard, vitreous kernels
Many in the grain trade refer to hard red spring wheat as DNS, a term which has become a trademark of excellence for the high protein, high quality wheat.

Wheat quality begins with the varieties planted.  While public breeding programs have historically dominated HRS variety development, lines from private companies have increased substantially in recent years.

The North Dakota Wheat Commission provides research funds to the HRS breeding program at North Dakota State University (NDSU).  Lines developed at NDSU must pass through an in-depth quality evaluation prior to release.

For more information on grading parameters, quality characteristics and definitions, and quality of the current year's crop, please visit the Spring Wheat Quality Report.

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