Some people like crackers with their soup, while others like to eat them with peanut butter. I eat crackers with both soup and peanut butter. In fact, I like to crumble my crackers in my soup. But do you know what your crackers have to do with those green fields you see in the fall after corn harvest?
Wheat is one of three major grain crops grown in northeastern North Carolina, including Pasquotank County. Area counties grew 26,000 acres of wheat in 2019. Farmers start planting wheat in mid-October and by late October fields start looking green. The wheat we raise stops growing in late fall and goes through a dormancy period before continuing to grow in late winter. Eventually the wheat plant produces a head of grain at the tiptop of the stem. The wheat changes from dark green to a tan color as it gets mature and ready for harvest starting in early June.
In the United States, six types of wheat are grown: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft white, durum, hard white and soft red winter wheat, which is what we primarily grow. Each type of wheat, due to the quality of its grains, is suited for certain types of baked goods. The soft red winter wheat, for example, is a high-yielding wheat with low protein (8.5-10.5%), soft endosperm, red bran, and weak gluten. It is used in pastries, cakes, cookies, crackers, pretzels, flat breads and for blending flours.
Your crackers may have come from a wheat field in northeastern North Carolina, although only about 10-15% of the wheat produced in the state is used in baked goods. The majority is used in livestock feed. Wheat growers who produce grain desired by millers can benefit financially, but not without extra management.
A lot of work by many people in the food industry is needed to transform wheat grains into a cracker, so don’t be stomping around in a wheat field looking for a cracker. Farmers and their workers are needed of course, but so are the grain elevators, seed producers, agricultural equipment and input supply businesses, and the support services including truckers and mechanics, etc. There are also the Extension agents, crop consultants, millers to process the grain, and retailers who receive the wheat as a consumable product.
By the way, wheat is a member of the grass family that includes the grass in your yard and/or horse pasture. It’s called a small grain because like oats, barley, and rye, wheat has relatively small kernels compared to plants like corn which have large kernels. A few of those fields you see could be planted with one of these other small grains.
Wheat planting is fast approaching so be watching for those green fields in the region. I know that farmers are doing their part to get ready. For more information on wheat, the following links are helpful: https://homegrown.extension.ncsu.edu/2021/07/flour-power-supporting-north-carolinas-wheat-industry/ and http://ncwheat.com/
Visit Pasquotank Cooperative Extension on the web at https://pasquotank.ces.ncsu.edu, like it on Facebook at NC Cooperative Extension-Pasquotank County Center or follow it on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PasquotankCES.
Alton Wood Jr. is an agricultural agent with the Pasquotank Center of NC Cooperative Extension.