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Dark Northern Spring

‘DNS’ is a common term when referring to the production of hard red spring wheat. Around the coffee shop you may hear your neighbor say, “I’m growing DNS.”

What is DNS? DNS is short for ‘Dark Northern Spring’ –and what is that?

Under the Official United States Standards for Grain, the market class ‘Hard Red Spring wheat’ is divided into three subclasses: Dark Northern Spring wheat, Northern Spring wheat, and Red Spring wheat.

What differentiates the sub-classes? It is the percentage of “dark, hard, and vitreous kernels”. To be classed as Dark Northern Spring wheat, the sample must have 75 percent or more dark, hard, and vitreous kernels. The limits for Northern Spring wheat are more than 25% but less than 75% dark, hard, and vitreous kernels; and Red Spring wheat has less than 25%.

Beyond the official market classification, the grain trade may impose any number of additional criteria. For example, to receive top prices, ‘DNS’ often must have a minimum of 14% protein. Some elevators may discount grain below this threshold with a sliding scale and may reward higher protein levels with premiums.

The Standards harken back to a time when analyzing protein was slow and laborious. In a very general sense, the percentage of vitreous kernels is correlated with protein content. And so at one time, a quick visual assessment of the percentage of vitreous kernels was a reasonable proxy for protein content. Why protein so important? Generally speaking, protein content has a direct relationship to gluten content, and as you may know, gluten is the visco-elastic (rubbery) material that allows us to make light airy yeast-leavened bread. I often refer to gluten as the ‘horsepower’ of wheat and so from bakers to millers to the elevator to the producer, higher protein is usually rewarded with premium prices because of its greater performance and value.

For more information contact Dr. Craig F. Morris, Director USDA-ARS Western Wheat Quality Laboratory, at or 509-335-4062.

Continued FAQ: WSU Wheat and Barley Research and Royalties

What are wheat and barley royalties?

  • Royalties are payments made on each pound of seed sold from proprietary wheat varieties developed by corporations and universities or research institutions. Royalties are collected by seed dealers and are paid to the developing company or university.
  • Royalties are common in the seed industry. They have been established by all companies as well as most public (university) wheat breeding programs.

Why did WSU begin charging royalties?

  • In 2012, in response to reductions in state support and increased costs of developing new wheat and barley varieties, WSU began charging royalties on all new varieties. Less than one-third of the cost of WSU research, including variety development, comes from state and federal formula funds. The remainder of the cost is from extramural sources.
  • Costs for developing new wheat and barley varieties have risen dramatically. Increasing demand for higher yielding varieties with excellent end-use quality and disease resistance that are specifically adapted to the various growing areas require advanced technology, more intense testing, and seed increases conducted in locations such as Arizona or the southern hemisphere to reduce the time to development.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Esser.

How much do growers pay?

  • WSU’s current royalty is 2 cents per pound of seed. Seventy percent (70%) of net proceeds from royalties are distributed to the WSU wheat and barley breeding programs, with the remainder distributed among the WSU Agricultural Research Center, the wheat or barley breeder, and the WSU Office of Commercialization.
  • WSU royalties are priced competitively, and are below private company royalty rates. WSU does not set the total, retail seed price—seed sellers do.
  • In 2015, gross royalties before expenses brought in $856,000.

How do royalties benefit the future of wheat and barley?

  • WSU is committed to releasing outstanding varieties by having the best wheat and barley breeding programs in the country. Royalties are reinvested in our breeding and support programs to develop new varieties addressing diverse market requirements and production conditions for Washington growers.
  • Royalties and commercialization of WSU wheat varieties protect our germplasm, which has a 120-year development history. Certified seed ensures that Washington wheat maintains consistent high quality, uniformity and is true to type year after year.
  • WSU varieties give farmers an option in addition to private company varieties, and are developed specifically for the unique climatic regions of eastern Washington.
  • For the next several years, royalties from WSU wheat and barley varieties are being used to pay for WSU’s share of the cost of the new Washington Grains Plant Growth Facility (PGF), opened in fall 2015. This facility speeds and improves the breeding process. Future royalties will be reinvested in variety development (breeding) programs and other research that supports variety development.

Why does WSU use Certified seed and “no plant-back” restrictions?

  • Newer WSU varieties are protected under Plant Variety Patents and/or contracts, where the seeds are sold under a “no plant-back” restriction.
  • To ensure genetic purity, identity, and minimum established quality standards, royalty bearing WSU varieties are available only as Certified seeds.
  • This protects the buyer as Certified seeds and the re-planting restriction provides an assurance to the user that the purchased seed meets a specific standard level of high genetic purity, germplasm identity, high germinating ability, and minimum amounts of other crop seed, weed seed, and inert matter.
  • A current list of WSU varieties that are under a “no plant-back” restriction can be found at

New Publication Has Washington Agribusiness Focus

Washington Agribusiness Status and Outlook cover photo_Page_01 Washington Agribusiness: Status and Outlook 2016 is the inaugural issue of a new annual publication. Produced by WSU economic sciences faculty, it examines the opportunities and challenges facing Washington agriculture. Each issue will come out in January and will provide an update on Washington’s major sectors, including wheat and barley, specialty crops, tree fruit, beef, and dairy, as well as feature articles on specific issues unique each year.

A major focus this year is on the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently awaiting action by the U.S. Congress. In his article, “Status of Washington Agricultural International Exports,” writer Andrew Cassey highlights the importance of trade to Washington agriculture and discusses potential impacts of the trade agreement. Writer Randy Fortenbery gives the small grains economic forecast in his piece “Situation and Outlook for Small Grains.” In addition, there are two interesting articles that review the results of recently completed research projects that focus on the beef and hard cider sectors in Washington.

Executive editor Randy Fortenbery, who is also a professor in the School of Economic Sciences, intends Washington Agribusiness: Status and Outlook 2016 to provide a concise summary of the issues facing Washington agribusiness. Timothy Nadreau, managing editor, welcomes suggestions for future content. He can be reached at

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Wheat Academy Resources

Biology and Management of Wireworms in Cereals

David Crowder, WSU Entomologist, and Aaron Esser, WSU Extension Agronomist


Herbicide Injury and Symptomology

Ian Burke, WSU Weed Scientist


Managing Nematodes to Improve Production Efficiency

Richard Smiley, Professor, Oregon State University, Dept. of Botany and Plant Pathology


Soil/Herbicide Interactions:Understanding Herbicide Persistence in the inland PNW

Alan J. Raeder, WSU Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences, Graduate Research Assistant, PhD Candidate


Transgenic crops: The Methods, Pros and Cons of GMO and Biotechnology

Michael Neff, Professor & Director, WSU Molecular Plant Sciences Graduate Program


Wheat Development and Growth

Ron Rickman, USDA-ARS Emeritus Faculty, and Tami Johlke, USDA-ARS Biological Research Technician


End-use Quality of PNW Wheat

Craig Morris, Director, USDA-ARS Western Wheat Quality Lab, and Doug Engle, USDA-ARS Physical Science Technician


Glyphosate and Wheat: Often Not a Good Mix

Bill Cobb, Cobb Consulting Services


Micronutrient Dynamics in Soils and Plants

Richard Koenig, Professor & Associate Dean and Director, WSU Extension

On-Farm Testing – Solving Problems with a Powerful Tool

Stephen Guy, WSU Extension Agronomist


Soil acidity – It’s not just soil pH

Jim Harsh, Professor & Chair, WSU Crop and Soil Sciences


Virus Diseases of Wheat in the PNW and their Control

Tim Murray, WSU Extension Plant Pathologist

Washington Wheat Production

Wheat & Barley Production in Washington

For decades Washington has been known throughout the world as the home of high quality soft white and club wheat production. Washington farmers also raise superb hard red winter, hard white, hard red spring wheat, and barley.

In 2013 there were nearly 2.2 million acres of wheat harvested in the state of Washington, yielding more than 144 million bushels, and barley was harvested on 185 thousand acres for a total production of 13.3 million bushels.

Winter Wheat

Spring Wheat

Soft White



Hard White



Hard Red



Total 1.66 million acres (114.5 million bushels) 455 thousand acres (21.8 million bushels)


This data was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Weed Identification Services

The WSU Small Grains team provides a weed identification service where your specimens from your small grains field may be identified by a professional weed science Extension specialist. There is no charge. Weeds are identified by flowers and fruits/seeds. Leaves, stems, buds, and roots may also aid in identification. Digital Identification Method: Digital images may… » More ...
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