Wheat, a cereal grain in the grass family, is the fourth most valuable cash crop grown in Kentucky. Current intensive management technology has made it possible for growers to produce a high quality, high-yielding crop. Wheat production is mechanized; with the exception of scouting, little-to-no handwork is involved with this crop. Despite significant acreage already dedicated to wheat production, additional opportunities continue to be available to make profitable returns. Most wheat grown in the Commonwealth is soft red winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) which is used in cakes, pastries, cookies, crackers, and cereals.
Wheat is most commonly marketed in Kentucky as a commodity grain crop for flour production. Producers must meet minimum quality standards for wheat delivered for processing at flour mills such as Siemer Milling in Hopkinsville. This flour is delivered by mills to bakers and food manufacturers, such as Continental Mills in Hopkinsville, where the flour is used in ready-to- make baking mixes and food product ingredients. Wheat may also be sold to local grain buyers or may be stored on the farm for future marketing or use as animal feed. A small amount of Kentucky wheat is processed and marketed by growers directly to consumers.
Wheat prefers well-drained, loamy soils and will not tolerate waterlogged conditions. Yields are reduced when wheat is grown on moderately or somewhat poorly drained soils. Yield potential, disease resistance, maturity, and lodging resistance are the critical considerations in cultivar selection. Growers need to be aware of the most commonly occurring diseases on their farm or locale, and then select several high-yielding varieties that have complementary disease resistance and maturity. Cultivars that have performed well during multiple years and over a range of conditions are likely to perform well again. Refer to the UK Small Grain Variety Testing Program website for more information.