Hard red spring wheat, also known as HRS wheat, is a grain crop grown predominantly in the midwestern areas of North America, particularly in Montana, the Dakotas and Minnesota in the United States and the provinces of Canada. Hard red spring wheat is one of the most important crops grown in North America. It is a premium milling wheat, used primarily in the baking industry.
A member of the grass family, hard red spring wheat originated in what is now modern day Iraq. The plant produces several long, thin, green leaves from its base. Offshoots, known as tillers, eventually form along the main shoot. Hard red spring wheat reproduces by generating long, tall, straight and slender stems that hold tiny florets in a long cluster at its tip. These produce a seed head, known as a spike, which contains the hard, dry and reddish-colored wheat kernels. Hard red spring wheat is usually sown in early spring and harvested in late summer.
The makeup of hard red spring wheat is different from that of other wheat varieties. While it contains a high amount of carbohydrates, as do other types of wheat, hard red spring wheat typically has from 13 to 16 percent protein, compared to the 10 or 11 percent of other varieties. This translates to a higher gluten level in hard red spring wheat, making it a better choice for milling into flour for baking.
Because of hard red spring wheat's high gluten, it can be added to dough mixtures to improve both mixing and dough handling properties. The elastic properties of gluten in the bread dough help to increase loaf volume by trapping carbon dioxide that is generated during leavening. This property helps hearth breads better hold their shape. Hard red spring wheat also absorbs more water than other flours with lower protein levels. This allows for more loaves of bread to be made from a smaller quantity of flour and also improves the softness and moistness of baked goods.
Used throughout the baking industry, hard red spring wheat is used as an ingredient in breads, rolls and other yeast-raised baked goods. Hard red spring wheat is often blended with other wheats to control and improve their gluten content. This wheat can also be used as a food thickener, sweetener and fermentation source for certain types of beer. Nonfood uses include ethyl alcohol production and paper manufacturing.
Hard red spring wheat makes up the majority of north American wheat production. According to a report created by the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, hard red spring wheat production was 41 percent of the total wheat crop for 2009. Exports of wheat were also dominated by hard red spring wheat at around 46 percent of the total exported wheat in the same year. The North Dakota Wheat Commission reports that the 2005 senses of agriculture indicated that of the 30,300 farms growing wheat in North Dakota alone, almost 75 percent of them grow hard red spring wheat.