Source: The Handbook of Texas Online
Wheat for grain
is one of the state's most valuable cash crops, usually
exceeded in value only by cotton lint, sorghum, and rice.
Wheat pastures also provide considerable winter grazing
for cattle. Wheat was first grown commercially in Texas
near Sherman about 1833. The acreage expanded greatly in
North Central and East Texas after 1850 due to the rapid
settlement of the state and the introduction of the
Mediterranean strain of wheat.
In 1850 the wheat crop was less than 50,000 bushels, but
by 1867 it reached 6,000,000 bushels with a market value
of a dollar a bushel. At that time the crop was
transported to market on ox wagons. Some planting was
done by grain drills, and reaping machines were being
used on most farms. Threshers could thresh and clean from
150 to 300 bushels a day. A major family-flour industry
developed in the Fort Worth-Dallas-Sherman area between
1875 and 1900. In 1879 about 104,000 acres of wheat
produced 1,224,000 bushels.
In 1903 acreage had increased to 1,483,595 acres with a
yield of 19,880,175 bushels. The 1930 crop from 3,457,000
acres was valued at $115,394,000. The wheat industry in
the state developed rapidly from 1920 to 1950 due to the
introduction of new types of wheat, improved farm
machinery, general agricultural expansion, the rise of
wheat prices, and the decrease in cost of production. The
top wheat-producing counties in 1950 were Ochiltree,
Hansford, Deaf Smith, and Sherman.
The leading varieties of wheat grown were Westar,
Commanche, Wichita, Triumph, and Tenmarq. Throughout the
1950s wheat was almost totally a cash crop. Although it
declined in importance as a food grain during this
period, it still ranked third in crop value. In 1954, a
crop of 30,894,000 bushels valued at over $67 million was
produced on over 3,000,000 acres.
Almost all Texas wheat grown during this time period was
of the hard red winter class and grown primarily on the
High Plains. One of the worst droughts in Texas history
began in the winter of 1950 and continued throughout the
decade. In 1955 a combination of extreme drought and
infestation reduced the annual yield of wheat to only
Yields increased during the late 1950s, however, and the
annual production for the period from 1954 to 1958
totaled 36,000,000 bushels. Texas wheat found a good
market in the Northeast and was transported to that area
by coastal shipping. In 1961 Texas wheat acreage yielded
86,956,000 bushels, the third largest crop on record. In
1968 the crop of 84,150,000 bushels raised on 3,825,000
acres was valued at $106,029,000.
The size and value of the crop decreased in 1969 and
1970, when a total of 54,408,000 bushels valued at
$70,730,000 was harvested from 2,267,000 acres. Leading
wheat-producing counties in the late 1960s and early
1970s were Carson, Castro, Deaf Smith, Floyd, Hansford,
Hartley, Moore, Ochiltree, Parmer, Swisher, Sherman, and
Wilbarger. Amarillo, Plainview, Lubbock, and Wichita
Falls, as well as the Dallas-Fort Worth area, were the
centers for more than seven large flour mills in the
By the late 1970s more than half of the state acreage was
being grown on the High Plains, and about half was
irrigated. Most of the state's wheat during this time was
of the hard red winter class. There was also some
expansion of acreage in South Texas due to the
development of varieties with improved disease resistance
and the use of wheat for winter pasture there. In 1978 a
total of 5.7 million acres was planted, and 2.7 million
acres was harvested.
The yield was twenty bushels per acre, for a total
production of 54,000,000 bushels valued at $156,600,000.
That year wheat ranked seventh in value out of all crops
produced in the state. Many farmers plant in September,
graze and fatten their stock on the green wheat, and
market their cattle in the later winter months. This
allows the wheat to mature for harvest in June. Wheat is
mechanically planted, cultivated, and harvested.
Almost all wheat harvested for grain is used in some
phase of the milling industry. The better quality hard
red winter wheat is used in the production of commercial
bakery flour. Lower grades and varieties of soft red
winter wheat are used in family flours. Byproducts of
milled wheat are used for feed. Though there has been a
shift in the type of wheat planted in Texas since 1979,
hard red winter wheat still predominates.
In 1990 it comprised about 93 percent of the planted
acreage. In 1982 Texas ranked fifth in the nation in
wheat production. In 1990 wheat was planted on 6.7
million acres and harvested from 4.2 million acres. The
yield of 31 bushels per acre produced 130.2 million
bushels and sold for $358,050,000. Leading wheat
producing counties in 1990 were Ochiltree, Wilbarger,
Swisher, Hansford, Deaf Smith, Dallam, Randall, and
Vertical Files, Barker Texas History
Center, University of Texas at Austin (Grain, Wheat).
was last updated March 17, 2003.