Doug Goyings knows exactly where his wheat goes after leaving his farm. Goyings, who farms about 800 acres of soft red winter (SRW) wheat in addition to corn and soybeans in Paulding, Ohio, dropped his cell phone in a semi-load of wheat during harvest. To his surprise, he received a call from a facility in Georgia weeks later where his wheat was being cleaned. 

From the farm to the elevator, SRW farmers like Goyings in Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, Arkansas and several other states in the eastern United States have access to both domestic and international markets.

Ohio leads the region by producing 45.8 million bushels of SRW in 2010, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Maryland and Virginia produced 8.1 million bushels and 8.16 million bushels respectively. Goyings explained that in addition to planting wheat as part of a rotation with corn and soybeans, he takes advantage of regional needs to increase his income per acre of wheat. Goyings also bales wheat straw and sells it as bedding for Kentucky racehorses or as mulch to the nursery industry. 

Robert Hutchinson, who grows SRW on the eastern shore of Maryland in Cordova, also plants SRW as a part of a rotation. He explained that he is far enough south to plant soybeans behind his wheat, but timing is critical. “With wheat, you have to get crops planted and harvested within a short window of time,” Hutchinson said. “It is twice the work to plant two crops, but you have twice the chance to hit a home run.” 

Maryland faces additional challenges with rainfall and runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. Runoff into the Bay is strictly managed, and many wheat farmers have implemented management practices like no-till tillage, broadcast seeding using vertical-tillage and slow release fertilizer as part of an inter-industry effort to restore Bay waters to sustainably healthy levels. 

As part of that effort, Hutchinson explained Maryland has a cover crop program that pays farmers to plant crops like wheat or barley. The crop can be harvested, but no fall fertilizer can be applied and no spring fertilizers can be applied before March 1, reducing the yield output of the crop.