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Northern New England Local Bread Wheat

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Research - Topdressing Nitrogen to Increase Grain Protein


Wheat grain must have a protein concentration of at least 10.5% (and preferably 12%) to be considered suitable for bread flour by most bakers.

The amount and timing of nitrogen available to the wheat plant is the most critical factor controlling grain protein. Supplying adequate nitrogen to winter wheat is particularly challenging for organic producers.

Nitrogen applied near the end of or after stem elongation has been shown to increase grain protein under conventional production, whereas nitrogen applied earlier in season tends to increase yield.


To test the effects of different top-dress nitrogen sources and times of application on winter wheat yield and grain protein to develop an effective fertility strategy for organic farmers to achieve bread baking quality.

Results from a 2009 preliminary trial:

Increase in grain protein due to topdress treatment
  Application rate
 Topdress N Source  20 lbs N/acre  40 lbs N/acre
 Chilean nitrate  7%  15%
 Dehydrated chicken manure  0%  7%

Costs of topdress N sources:
 Per lb of product  Per lb of N
Chilean nitrate (16-0-0) $0.50 $3.15
Dehydrated chicken manure
- Cheep Cheep (4-3-3) $0.26 $6.69
- Nutriwave (4-1-1) $0.10 $2.50

Acknowledgement: This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Organic Research and Extension Initiative under Award No. 2009?01366, “Enhancing farmers’ capacity to produce high quality organic bread wheat.”

Image Description: young wheat

Image Description: wheat

Image Description: wheat

Image Description: University of Maine; University of Vermont Extension, Cultivating Healthy Communities

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Contact Information

Northern New England Local Bread Wheat
495 College Avenue
Orono, ME 04473
Phone: 207.581.2942E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System