IMPROVING BAKING QUALITY AND LOCAL MARKETS FOR WHEAT GROWN IN WESTERN WASHINGTON
Hills, Karen Marie
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Winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) is currently grown in crop rotations in western Washington to break disease cycles and improve soil quality. There is interest in creating a local grain system to add value to the crop. Two of the barriers to the creation of a local grain system are increasing protein levels and baking quality in organic systems and understanding attitudes of commercial bakers in western Washington in regards to purchasing western Washington wheat flour. In 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, a blended organic fertilizer (Perfect Blend TM 7-2-2) was surface-applied at five rates ranging from 0 to 90 kg N ha-1 to three varieties of hard winter wheat grown at two locations in western Washington at the crop boot stage. Grain protein, averaged across varieties and locations, was 9.28 percent and 8.50 percent for the 0 kg N ha-1 treatment during the two seasons, respectively, and 10.27 and 9.56 percent for the plots receiving 90 kg N ha-1. Protein quality, measured as SDS sedimentation, averaged across varieties, locations and years was 9.9 cc g-1 for the 0 kg N ha-1 treatment and 10.5 cc g-1 for the plots receiving 90 kg N ha-1 at the boot stage. More work is required to determine quality thresholds for the intended market of artisan bakers. A survey of 73 commercial bakers in western Washington found that 61 percent were interested in purchasing western Washington wheat/flour. Bakers who used retail strategies to market their products were more likely to be interested in western Washington wheat/flour. The most important factors bakers would consider in purchasing regionally produced wheat/flour were consistency, quality, and reliability of supply. Thirty-four percent of survey respondents defined local as within the state of Washington, 25 percent provided a multi-state definition, and 14 percent provided a flexible (or reflexive) definition that referred to two or more geographic regions. Perceived barriers to purchasing local wheat included supply chain, price, quality, and scale factors. Both opportunities and challenges exist in western Washington and other regions interested in the relocalization of wheat supply chains.