The different climates of the major wheat growing zones in the United States determine what kind of wheat can be grown. Winter wheat is planted in the fall and harvested the following year. Spring wheat is planted in the spring and harvested in late summer. Most of the wheat harvested in the U.S. is winter wheat, although some spring wheat including Durham wheat is grown in the Northern Plains that have harsh winters.
The Great Plains is that area of the U.S. that runs from Texas north through Montana. This major American growing zone produces hard red winter wheat that accounts for 70 to 80 percent of U.S. production. Growers plant hard wheat at the beginning of September through October and harvest it in mid to late August of the following year.
The Northern Plains is the northern part of the Great Plains running from Montana through North and South Dakota to Minnesota. In addition to growing hard red winter wheat, this growing zone produces about 25 percent of hard spring wheat. Spring wheat contains high levels of protein, making it useful for flours. Growers plant it in April and May and harvest it from mid-July to mid-September.
North Dakota, northeastern Montana and parts of South Dakota grow almost all of the Durham wheat grown in the U.S. Durham is a hard wheat that is made into pasta and noodles; growers plant it in spring and harvest it in the late summer.
The states flanking the Mississippi River grow soft red winter wheat that growers plant in September and October and harvest in June and July of the following year. Flour made from this wheat is used to bake cookies, crackers and cakes.
Oregon, Washington and Idaho
White winter wheat is grown in a zone that includes northeastern Oregon and the Palouse Hills of southeastern Washington and adjoining areas of Idaho. This hard wheat is used to make noodles and white bread that has a crust as well as cereals and crackers.
Other Growing Zones
Areas of Michigan and New York grow hard white winter wheat. Soft red winter wheat is being increasingly grown as a cash crop along the Atlantic Coast, in areas of the eastern Corn Belt,and in the northern parts of the Mississippi Delta. It is grown as a winter cover crop in numerous growing zones.