Historic rain significantly delayed the durum harvests in North Dakota and Montana, and has led to significant quality issues for a large portion of the crop, according to the North Dakota Wheat Commission’s annual wheat quality report.
Still, buyers will find some durum that is high-quality, according to an analysis of the crop by North Dakota State University, which is commissioned annually by the Wheat Commission.
Analysis of the 2019 crop shows the overall crop is smaller than 2018, and is skewed lower in overall quality. Regional production of durum is down 20 percent from 2018, at around 52 million bushels.
Planted areas started out the season down by 35 percent, as compared to average, but mid-season rain helped offset some of that by boosting yields to above average in some areas. Final production, however, is likely to fall further behind current estimates, with 20 percent of the region’s crop still unharvested as of mid-October.
Hard Red Spring wheat production, meanwhile, was down 5 percent from last year, but up 8 percent as compared to the five-year average.
Rain caused similar problems for both hard red spring wheat and durum crops, though not as severely as for durum. The hard red spring wheat was also a much larger crop, which should give buyers more flexibility in sourcing the quality they need.
Erica Olson is Market Development and Research Manager for the North Dakota Wheat Commission.
“Overall (the hard red spring wheat) is a good crop,” she told the Williston Herald. “But we also had some challenges at harvest, similar to the challenges we had for durum. The rain delayed the harvest, and then there was the snow. Some of the crop just won’t be harvested.”
Both crops suffered from low falling numbers, higher DON numbers in some areas, and lower vitreous kernel content — though all of these quality issues were more prevalent in durum.
A high vitreous kernel content is particularly important to the durum crop. Below 85 to 90 percent generally results in discounts, depending on contract specifications. The average for durum vitreous kernel levels in this year’s crop was 64 percent.
There were challenges not only with the 2019 harvest, but with sample collection for the Wheat Commission’s quality report as well. Just 77 percent of the usual durum samples were collected and analyzed for the report this year.
“This fall has been the most challenging collection period in recent memory,” said North Dakota Wheat Commission Policy and Marketing Director Jim Peterson in a media release. “We have goals of how many samples we want to collect each week. With the weather, getting predictable, steady samples was difficult, but we’re confident the survey is a fair representation of what will make it to the commercial market.”
In all, nearly 900 samples of hard red spring wheat and durum were collected and shipped to North Dakota State University for analysis of kernel quality and end-use properties.
The results of that analysis are an important marketing tool each year for both foreign and domestic customers.
Accuracy is key, Olson added.
“It’s more fun when it’s a good year to share the results of this report,” she said. “But in years like this we need to make sure we have accurate data, good, bad or otherwise. This way (our customers) can be aware of the problems and make any adjustments they need to make.”