1.grains of common wheat; sometimes cooked whole or cracked as cereal; usually ground into flour
2.annual or biennial grass having erect flower spikes and light brown grains
3.a variable yellow tint; dull yellow, often diluted with white
WheatWheat (hwēt), n. [OE. whete, AS. hwǣte; akin to OS. hwēti, D. weit, G. weizen, OHG. weizzi, Icel. hveiti, Sw. hvete, Dan. hvede, Goth. hwaiteis, and E. white. See White.] (Bot.) A cereal grass (Triticum vulgare) and its grain, which furnishes a white flour for bread, and, next to rice, is the grain most largely used by the human race.
☞ Of this grain the varieties are numerous, as red wheat, white wheat, bald wheat, bearded wheat, winter wheat, summer wheat, and the like. Wheat is not known to exist as a wild native plant, and all statements as to its origin are either incorrect or at best only guesses.
Buck wheat. (Bot.) See Buckwheat. -- German wheat. (Bot.) See 2d Spelt. -- Guinea wheat (Bot.), a name for Indian corn. -- Indian wheat, or Tartary wheat (Bot.), a grain (Fagopyrum Tartaricum) much like buckwheat, but only half as large. -- Turkey wheat (Bot.), a name for Indian corn. -- Wheat aphid, or Wheat aphis (Zoöl.), any one of several species of Aphis and allied genera, which suck the sap of growing wheat. -- Wheat beetle. (Zoöl.) (a) A small, slender, rusty brown beetle (Sylvanus Surinamensis) whose larvæ feed upon wheat, rice, and other grains. (b) A very small, reddish brown, oval beetle (Anobium paniceum) whose larvæ eat the interior of grains of wheat. -- Wheat duck (Zoöl.), the American widgeon. [Western U. S.] -- Wheat fly. (Zoöl.) Same as Wheat midge, below. -- Wheat grass (Bot.), a kind of grass (Agropyrum caninum) somewhat resembling wheat. It grows in the northern parts of Europe and America. -- Wheat jointworm. (Zoöl.) See Jointworm. -- Wheat louse (Zoöl.), any wheat aphid. -- Wheat maggot (Zoöl.), the larva of a wheat midge. -- Wheat midge. (Zoöl.) (a) A small two-winged fly (Diplosis tritici) which is very destructive to growing wheat, both in Europe and America. The female lays her eggs in the flowers of wheat, and the larvæ suck the juice of the young kernels and when full grown change to pupæ in the earth. (b) The Hessian fly. See under Hessian. -- Wheat moth (Zoöl.), any moth whose larvæ devour the grains of wheat, chiefly after it is harvested; a grain moth. See Angoumois Moth, also Grain moth, under Grain. -- Wheat thief (Bot.), gromwell; -- so called because it is a troublesome weed in wheat fields. See Gromwell. -- Wheat thrips (Zoöl.), a small brown thrips (Thrips cerealium) which is very injurious to the grains of growing wheat. -- Wheat weevil. (Zoöl.) (a) The grain weevil. (b) The rice weevil when found in wheat.
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Ordre des Poales (fr)[ClasseTaxo.]
plante officinale (fr)[ClasseParExt.]
objet du culte israélite (fr)[Classe]
aliment (pour l'homme) (fr)[Classe...]
(wheat; grain; corn)[Thème]
Famille des Graminacées (fr)[ClasseTaxo.]
plante antidiarrhéique (fr)[ClasseParExt.]
wheat; grain; corn[ClasseHyper.]
nourriture liée au judaïsme (fr)[ClasseParExt.]
végétal alimentaire pour l'homme (fr)[ClasseParExt.]
Wheat (Triticum spp.) is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East and Ethiopian Highlands, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2010 world production of wheat was 651 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize (844 million tons) and rice (672 million tons). In 2009, world production of wheat was 682 million tons, making it the second most-produced cereal after maize (817 million tons), and with rice as close third (679 million tons).
Wheat is grown on more land area than any other commercial crop and is the most important staple food for humans. World trade in wheat is greater than for all other crops combined. Globally, wheat is the leading source of vegetable protein in human food, having a higher protein content than either maize (corn) or rice, the other major cereals. In terms of total production tonnages used for food, it is currently second to rice as the main human food crop and ahead of maize, after allowing for maize's more extensive use in animal feeds.
Wheat was a key factor enabling the emergence of city-based societies at the start of civilization because it was one of the first crops that could be easily cultivated on a large scale, and had the additional advantage of yielding a harvest that provides long-term storage of food. Wheat contributed to the emergence of city-states in the Fertile Crescent, including the Babylonian and Assyrian empires. Wheat grain is a staple food used to make flour for leavened, flat and steamed breads, biscuits, cookies, cakes, breakfast cereal, pasta, noodles, couscous and for fermentation to make beer, other alcoholic beverages, or biofuel.
Wheat is planted to a limited extent as a forage crop for livestock, and its straw can be used as a construction material for roofing thatch. The whole grain can be milled to leave just the endosperm for white flour. The by-products of this are bran and germ. The whole grain is a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, and protein, while the refined grain is mostly starch.
Wheat is one of the first cereals known to have been domesticated, and wheat's ability to self-pollinate greatly facilitated the selection of many distinct domesticated varieties. The archaeological record suggests that this first occurred in the regions known as the Fertile Crescent, and the Nile Delta. These include southeastern parts of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, the Levant, Israel, Egypt and Ethiopia. Recent findings narrow the first domestication of wheat down to a small region of southeastern Turkey, and domesticated Einkorn wheat at Nevalı Çori—40 miles (64 km) northwest of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey—has been dated to 9,000 B.C. However evidence for the exploitation of wild barley has been dated to 23,000 B.C. and some say this is also true of pre-domesticated wheat.
Archaeological analysis of wild emmer indicates that it was first cultivated in the southern Levant with finds at Iraq ed-Dubb in northern Jordan dating back as far as 9600 BC. Genetic analysis of wild einkorn wheat suggests that it was first grown in the Karacadag Mountains in southeastern Turkey. Dated archeological remains of einkorn wheat in settlement sites near this region, including those at Abu Hureyra in Syria, suggest the domestication of einkorn near the Karacadag Mountain Range. With the anomalous exception of two grains from Iraq ed-Dubb, the earliest carbon-14 date for einkorn wheat remains at Abu Hureyra is 7800 to 7500 years BC. Remains of harvested emmer from several sites near the Karacadag Range have been dated to between 8600 (at Cayonu) and 8400 BC (Abu Hureyra), that is, in the Neolithic period. With the exception of Iraq ed-Dubb, the earliest carbon-14 dated remains of domesticated emmer wheat were found in the earliest levels of Tell Aswad, in the Damascus basin, near Mount Hermon in Syria. These remains were dated by Willem van Zeist and his assistant Johanna Bakker-Heeres to 8800 BC. They also concluded that the settlers of Tell Aswad did not develop this form of emmer themselves, but brought the domesticated grains with them from an as yet unidentified location elsewhere.
Cultivation and repeated harvesting and sowing of the grains of wild grasses led to the creation of domestic strains, as mutant forms ('sports') of wheat were preferentially chosen by farmers. In domesticated wheat, grains are larger, and the seeds (spikelets) remain attached to the ear by a toughened rachis during harvesting. In wild strains, a more fragile rachis allows the ear to easily shatter and disperse the spikelets. Selection for these traits by farmers might not have been deliberately intended, but simply have occurred because these traits made gathering the seeds easier; nevertheless such 'incidental' selection was an important part of crop domestication. As the traits that improve wheat as a food source also involve the loss of the plant's natural seed dispersal mechanisms, highly domesticated strains of wheat cannot survive in the wild.
Cultivation of wheat began to spread beyond the Fertile Crescent after about 8000 BC. Jared Diamond traces the spread of cultivated emmer wheat starting in the Fertile Crescent about 8500 BC, reaching Greece, Cyprus and India by 6500 BC, Egypt shortly after 6000 BC, and Germany and Spain by 5000 BC. "The early Egyptians were developers of bread and the use of the oven and developed baking into one of the first large-scale food production industries."  By 3000 BC, wheat had reached England and Scandinavia. A millennium later it reached China. The first identifiable bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) with sufficient gluten for yeasted breads has been identified using DNA analysis in samples from a granary dating to c 1350 BC at Assiros in Greek Macedonia.
Wheat continued to spread throughout Europe. In England, thatch was used for roofing in the Bronze Age, and was in common use until the late 19th century.
Technological advances in soil preparation and seed placement at planting time, use of crop rotation and fertilizers to improve plant growth, and advances in harvesting methods have all combined to promote wheat as a viable crop. Agricultural cultivation using horse collar leveraged plows (at about 3000 BC) was one of the first innovations that increased productivity. Much later, when the use of seed drills replaced broadcasting sowing of seed in the 18th century, another great increase in productivity occurred. Yields of wheat per unit area increased as methods of crop rotation were applied to long cultivated land, and the use of fertilizers became widespread. Improved agricultural husbandry has more recently included threshing machines and reaping machines (the 'combine harvester'), tractor-drawn cultivators and planters, and better varieties (see Green Revolution and Norin 10 wheat). Great expansions of wheat production occurred as new arable land was farmed in the Americas and Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries.
US EPA Title 40 Section 503 allows for wheat to be grown on sewage sludge. Some uptake of heavy metals is possible. Flour grown on sewage sludge is not USDA Certified Organic. Cereal crops such as wheat might become contaminated with E. coli.
Wheat genetics is more complicated than that of most other domesticated species. Some wheat species are diploid, with two sets of chromosomes, but many are stable polyploids, with four sets of chromosomes (tetraploid) or six (hexaploid).
The presence of certain versions of wheat genes has been important for crop yields. Apart from mutant versions of genes selected in antiquity during domestication, there has been more recent deliberate selection of alleles that affect growth characteristics. Genes for the 'dwarfing' trait, first used by Japanese wheat breeders to produce short-stalked wheat, have had a huge effect on wheat yields world-wide, and were major factors in the success of the Green Revolution in Mexico and Asia. Dwarfing genes enable the carbon that is fixed in the plant during photosynthesis to be diverted towards seed production, and they also help prevent the problem of lodging. 'Lodging' occurs when an ear stalk falls over in the wind and rots on the ground, and heavy nitrogenous fertilization of wheat makes the grass grow taller and become more susceptible to this problem. By 1997, 81% of the developing world's wheat area was planted to semi-dwarf wheats, giving both increased yields and better response to nitrogenous fertilizer.
Heterosis, or hybrid vigor (as in the familiar F1 hybrids of maize), occurs in common (hexaploid) wheat, but it is difficult to produce seed of hybrid cultivars on a commercial scale (as is done with maize) because wheat flowers are perfect and normally self-pollinate. Commercial hybrid wheat seed has been produced using chemical hybridizing agents; these chemicals selectively interfere with pollen development, or naturally occurring cytoplasmic male sterility systems. Hybrid wheat has been a limited commercial success in Europe (particularly France), the USA and South Africa. F1 hybrid wheat cultivars should not be confused with the standard method of breeding inbred wheat cultivars by crossing two lines using hand emasculation, then selfing or inbreeding the progeny many (ten or more) generations before release selections are identified to be released as a variety or cultivar.
Synthetic hexaploids made by crossing the wild goatgrass wheat ancestor Aegilops tauschii and various durum wheats are now being deployed, and these increase the genetic diversity of cultivated wheats.
Stomata (or leaf pores) are involved in both uptake of carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere and water vapor losses from the leaf due to water transpiration. Basic physiological investigation of these gas exchange processes has yielded valuable carbon isotope based methods that are used for breeding wheat varieties with improved water-use efficiency. These varieties can improve crop productivity in rain-fed dry-land wheat farms.
In 2010, a team of UK scientists funded by BBSRC announced they had decoded the wheat genome for the first time (95% of the genome of a variety of wheat known as Chinese Spring line 42). This genome was released in a basic format for scientists and plant breeders to use but was not a fully annotated sequence which was reported in some of the media. The gene rich regions of several chromosomes have been sequenced and made available at http://www.wheatgenome.info, and a fully annotated sequence is being assembled by a global consortium (IWGSC http://www.wheatgenome.org/), including members of this team.
In traditional agricultural systems wheat populations often consist of landraces, informal farmer-maintained populations that often maintain high levels of morphological diversity. Although landraces of wheat are no longer grown in Europe and North America, they continue to be important elsewhere. The origins of formal wheat breeding lie in the nineteenth century, when single line varieties were created through selection of seed from a single plant noted to have desired properties. Modern wheat breeding developed in the first years of the twentieth century and was closely linked to the development of Mendelian genetics. The standard method of breeding inbred wheat cultivars is by crossing two lines using hand emasculation, then selfing or inbreeding the progeny. Selections are identified (shown to have the genes responsible for the varietal differences) ten or more generations before release as a variety or cultivar.
F1 hybrid wheat cultivars should not be confused with wheat cultivars deriving from standard plant breeding. Heterosis or hybrid vigor (as in the familiar F1 hybrids of maize) occurs in common (hexaploid) wheat, but it is difficult to produce seed of hybrid cultivars on a commercial scale as is done with maize because wheat flowers are complete and normally self-pollinate. Commercial hybrid wheat seed has been produced using chemical hybridizing agents, plant growth regulators that selectively interfere with pollen development, or naturally occurring cytoplasmic male sterility systems. Hybrid wheat has been a limited commercial success in Europe (particularly France), the United States and South Africa.
The major breeding objectives include high grain yield, good quality, disease and insect resistance and tolerance to abiotic stresses include mineral, moisture and heat tolerance. The major diseases in temperate environments include the following, arranged in a rough order of their significance from cooler to warmer climates: eyespot, Stagonospora nodorum blotch (also known as glume blotch), yellow or stripe rust, powdery mildew, Septoria tritici blotch (sometimes known as leaf blotch), brown or leaf rust, Fusarium head blight, tan spot and stem rust. In tropical areas, spot blotch (also known as Helminthosporium leaf blight) is also important.
The four wild species of wheat, along with the domesticated varieties einkorn, emmer and spelt, have hulls. This more primitive morphology (in evolutionary terms) consists of toughened glumes that tightly enclose the grains, and (in domesticated wheats) a semi-brittle rachis that breaks easily on threshing. The result is that when threshed, the wheat ear breaks up into spikelets. To obtain the grain, further processing, such as milling or pounding, is needed to remove the hulls or husks. In contrast, in free-threshing (or naked) forms such as durum wheat and common wheat, the glumes are fragile and the rachis tough. On threshing, the chaff breaks up, releasing the grains. Hulled wheats are often stored as spikelets because the toughened glumes give good protection against pests of stored grain.
There are many botanical classification systems used for wheat species, discussed in a separate article on Wheat taxonomy. The name of a wheat species from one information source may not be the name of a wheat species in another.
Within a species, wheat cultivars are further classified by wheat breeders and farmers in terms of:
Classes used in the United States are
Red wheats may need bleaching; therefore, white wheats usually command higher prices than red wheats on the commodities market.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,506 kJ (360 kcal)|
|- Dietary fiber||13.2 g|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||1.882 mg (164%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.499 mg (42%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||6.813 mg (45%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.05 mg (1%)|
|Vitamin B6||1.3 mg (100%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||281 μg (70%)|
|Calcium||39 mg (4%)|
|Iron||6.26 mg (48%)|
|Magnesium||239 mg (67%)|
|Phosphorus||842 mg (120%)|
|Potassium||892 mg (19%)|
|Zinc||12.29 mg (129%)|
|Manganese 13.301 mg|
|Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Raw wheat can be ground into flour or, using hard durum wheat only, can be ground into semolina; germinated and dried creating malt; crushed or cut into cracked wheat; parboiled (or steamed), dried, crushed and de-branned into bulgur also known as groats. If the raw wheat is broken into parts at the mill, as is usually done, the outer husk or bran can be used several ways. Wheat is a major ingredient in such foods as bread, porridge, crackers, biscuits, Muesli, pancakes, pies, pastries, cakes, cookies, muffins, rolls, doughnuts, gravy, boza (a fermented beverage), and breakfast cereals (e.g., Wheatena, Cream of Wheat, Shredded Wheat, and Wheaties).
100 grams of hard red winter wheat contain about 12.6 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of total fat, 71 grams of carbohydrate (by difference), 12.2 grams of dietary fiber, and 3.2 mg of iron (17% of the daily requirement); the same weight of hard red spring wheat contains about 15.4 grams of protein, 1.9 grams of total fat, 68 grams of carbohydrate (by difference), 12.2 grams of dietary fiber, and 3.6 mg of iron (20% of the daily requirement).
Much of the carbohydrate fraction of wheat is starch. Wheat starch is an important commercial product of wheat, but second in economic value to wheat gluten. The principal parts of wheat flour are gluten and starch. These can be separated in a kind of home experiment, by mixing flour and water to form a small ball of dough, and kneading it gently while rinsing it in a bowl of water. The starch falls out of the dough and sinks to the bottom of the bowl, leaving behind a ball of gluten.
In wheat, phenolic compounds are mainly found in the form of insoluble bound ferulic acid and be relevant to resistance to wheat fungal diseases. Alkylresorcinols are phenolic lipids present in high amounts in the bran layer (e.g. pericarp, testa and aleurone layers) of wheat and rye (0.1-0.3 % of dry weight).
Wheat is grown on more than 240 million hectares, larger than for any other crop. World trade in wheat is greater than for all other crops combined. With rice, wheat is the world's most favored staple food. Wheat provides more nourishment for humans than any other food source. It is a major diet component because of the wheat plant’s agronomic adaptability with the ability to grow from near arctic regions to equator, from sea level to plains of Tibet (4000 meters above sea level). In addition to agronomic adaptability, wheat offers ease of grain storage and ease of converting grain into flour for making edible, palatable, interesting and satisfying foods. Wheat is the most important source of carbohydrate in a majority of countries.
Wheat protein is easily digested by nearly 99% of human population (see gluten sensitivity for exception). So is its starch. Wheat also contains a diversity of minerals, vitamins and fats (lipids). With a small amount of animal or legume protein added, a wheat-based meal is highly nutritious.
The most common forms of wheat are white and red wheat. However, other natural forms of wheat exist. For example, in the highlands of Ethiopia grows purple wheat, a tetraploid species of wheat that is rich in anti-oxidants. Other commercially minor but nutritionally promising species of naturally evolved wheat species include black, yellow and blue wheat.
Several screening studies in Europe, South America, Australasia, and the USA suggest that approximately 0.5–1% of these populations may have undetected coeliac disease. coeliac (also written as celiac) disease is a condition that is caused by an adverse immune system reaction to gliadin, a gluten protein found in wheat (and similar proteins of the tribe Triticeae which includes other species such as barley and rye). Upon exposure to gliadin, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase modifies the protein, and the immune system cross-reacts with the bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction. That leads to flattening of the lining of the small intestine, which interferes with the absorption of nutrients. The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.
While the disease is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, it is not the same as wheat allergy.
The following table shows the nutrient content of wheat and other major staple foods in a raw form.
Raw forms of these staples, however, are not edible and cannot be digested. These must be sprouted, or prepared and cooked as appropriate for human consumption. In sprouted or cooked form, the relative nutritional and anti-nutritional contents of each of these grains is remarkably different from that of raw form of these grains reported in this table.
In cooked form, the nutrition value for each staple depends on the cooking method (for example: baking, boiling, steaming, frying, etc.).
|STAPLE:||Maize / Corn[A]||Rice[B]||Wheat[C]||Potato[D]||Cassava[E]||Soybean[F]||Sweet potato[G]||Sorghum[H]||Yam[Y]||Plantain[Z]|
|Component (per 100g portion)||Amount||Amount||Amount||Amount||Amount||Amount||Amount||Amount||Amount||Amount|
|Vitamin C (mg)||6.8||0||0||19.7||20.6||29||2.4||0||17.1||18.4|
|Pantothenic acid (mg)||0.76||1.01||0.94||0.30||0.11||0.15||0.80||-||0.31||0.26|
|Vitamin B6 (mg)||0.06||0.16||0.42||0.30||0.09||0.07||0.21||-||0.29||0.30|
|Folate Total (mcg)||46||231||43||16||27||165||11||0||23||22|
|Vitamin A (IU)||208||0||0||2||13||180||14187||0||138||1127|
|Vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol (mg)||0.07||0.11||0||0.01||0.19||0||0.26||0||0.39||0.14|
|Vitamin K (mcg)||0.3||0.1||0||1.9||1.9||0||1.8||0||2.6||0.7|
|Saturated fatty acids (g)||0.18||0.18||0.45||0.03||0.07||0.79||0.02||0.46||0.04||0.14|
|Monounsaturated fatty acids (g)||0.35||0.21||0.34||0.00||0.08||1.28||0.00||0.99||0.01||0.03|
|Polyunsaturated fatty acids (g)||0.56||0.18||0.98||0.04||0.05||3.20||0.01||1.37||0.08||0.07|
|A corn, sweet, yellow, raw||B rice, white, long-grain, regular, raw|
|C wheat, durum||D potato, flesh and skin, raw|
|E cassava, raw||F soybeans, green, raw|
|G sweetpotato, raw, unprepared||H sorghum, raw|
|Y yam, raw||Z plantains, raw|
Harvested wheat grain that enters trade is classified according to grain properties for the purposes of the commodities market. Wheat buyers use these to decide which wheat to buy, as each class has special uses, and producers use them to decide which classes of wheat will be most profitable to cultivate.
Wheat is widely cultivated as a cash crop because it produces a good yield per unit area, grows well in a temperate climate even with a moderately short growing season, and yields a versatile, high-quality flour that is widely used in baking. Most breads are made with wheat flour, including many breads named for the other grains they contain like most rye and oat breads. The popularity of foods made from wheat flour creates a large demand for the grain, even in economies with significant food surpluses.
In recent years, low international wheat prices have often encouraged farmers in the USA to change to more profitable crops. In 1998, the price at harvest was $2.68 per bushel. A USDA report revealed that in 1998, average operating costs were $1.43 per bushel and total costs were $3.97 per bushel. In that study, farm wheat yields averaged 41.7 bushels per acre (2.2435 metric ton / hectare), and typical total wheat production value was $31,900 per farm, with total farm production value (including other crops) of $173,681 per farm, plus $17,402 in government payments. There were significant profitability differences between low- and high-cost farms, mainly due to crop yield differences, location, and farm size.
In 2007 there was a dramatic rise in the price of wheat due to freezes and flooding in the northern hemisphere and a drought in Australia. Wheat futures in September, 2007 for December and March delivery had risen above $9.00 a bushel, prices never seen before. There were complaints in Italy about the high price of pasta. This followed a wider trend of escalating food prices around the globe, driven in part by climatic conditions such as drought in Australia, the diversion of arable land to other uses (such as producing government-subsidised bio-oil crops), and later by some food-producing nations placing bans or restrictions on exports in order to satisfy their own consumers.
Other drivers affecting wheat prices include the movement to bio fuels and rising incomes in developing countries, which is causing a shift in eating patterns from predominantly rice to more meat based diets (a rise in meat production equals a rise in grain consumption—seven kilograms of grain is required to produce one kilogram of beef).
In 2003, global per capita wheat consumption was 67 kg, with the highest per capita consumption (239 kg) found in Kyrgyzstan. In 1997, global wheat consumption was 101 kg per capita, with the highest consumption (623 kg per capita) in Denmark, but most of this (81%) was for animal feed. Wheat is the primary food staple in North Africa and the Middle East, and is growing in popularity in Asia. Unlike rice, wheat production is more widespread globally though China's share is almost one-sixth of the world.
In the 20th century, global wheat output expanded by about 5-fold, but until about 1955 most of this reflected increases in wheat crop area, with lesser (about 20%) increases in crop yields per unit area. After 1955 however, there was a dramatic ten-fold increase in the rate of wheat yield improvement per year, and this became the major factor allowing global wheat production to increase. Thus technological innovation and scientific crop management with synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, irrigation and wheat breeding were the main drivers of wheat output growth in the second half of the century. There were some significant decreases in wheat crop area, for instance in North America.
Better seed storage and germination ability (and hence a smaller requirement to retain harvested crop for next year's seed) is another 20th century technological innovation. In Medieval England, farmers saved one-quarter of their wheat harvest as seed for the next crop, leaving only three-quarters for food and feed consumption. By 1999, the global average seed use of wheat was about 6% of output.
Several factors are currently slowing the rate of global expansion of wheat production: population growth rates are falling while wheat yields continue to rise, and the better economic profitability of other crops such as soybeans and maize, linked with investment in modern genetic technologies, has promoted shifts to other crops.
In the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, as well as North China, irrigation has been a major contributor to increased grain output. More widely over the last 40 years, a massive increase in fertilizer use together with the increased availability of semi-dwarf varieties in developing countries, has greatly increased yields per hectare. In developing countries, use of (mainly nitrogenous) fertilizer increased 25-fold in this period. However, farming systems rely on much more than fertilizer and breeding to improve productivity. A good illustration of this is Australian wheat growing in the southern winter cropping zone, where, despite low rainfall (300 mm), wheat cropping is successful even with relatively little use of nitrogenous fertilizer. This is achieved by 'rotation cropping' (traditionally called the ley system) with leguminous pastures and, in the last decade, including a canola crop in the rotations has boosted wheat yields by a further 25% . In these low rainfall areas, better use of available soil-water (and better control of soil erosion) is achieved by retaining the stubble after harvesting and by minimizing tillage.
In 2009, the most productive farms for wheat were in France producing 7.45 metric tonnes per hectare. The five largest producers of wheat in 2009 were China (115 million metric tonnes), India (81 MMT), Russian Federation (62 MMT), United States (60 MMT) and France (38 MMT). The wheat farm productivity in India and Russia were about 35% of the wheat farm productivity in France. China's farm productivity for wheat, in 2009, was about double that of Russia. If India and Russia could adopt the farming knowledge and technology of France, the world production of wheat would be 40% higher with a farming area same as the area farmed for wheat in 2009.
In addition to gap in farming system technology and knowledge, some large wheat grain producing countries have significant losses after harvest at the farm and because of poor roads, inadequate storage technologies, inefficient supply chains and farmer's inability to bring the produce into retail markets dominated by small shopkeepers. Various studies in India, for example, have concluded that about 10% of total wheat production is lost at farm level, another 10% is lost because of poor storage and road networks, and additional amounts lost at retail level. One study claims that if these post-harvest wheat grain losses could be eliminated with better infrastructure and retail network, in India alone enough food would be saved every year to feed 70 to 100 million people over a year.
Wheat futures are traded on the Chicago Board of Trade, Kansas City Board of Trade, and Minneapolis Grain Exchange, and have delivery dates in March (H), May (K), July (N), September (U), and December (Z).
|Top Ten Wheat Producers — 2010 (million metric ton)|
|People's Republic of China||115|
|Source: UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)|
There are substantial differences in wheat farming, trading, policy, sector growth, and wheat uses in different regions of the world. In the EU and Canada for instance, there is significant addition of wheat to animal feeds, but less so in the USA.
The largest exporters of wheat in 2009 were, in order of exported quantities: United States, EU-27, Canada, Russian Federation, Australia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Upon the results of 2011, Ukraine became world's sixth wheat exporter as well. The largest importers of wheat in 2009 were, in order of imported quantities: Egypt, EU-27, Brazil, Indonesia, Algeria and Japan. EU-27 was on both export and import list, because EU countries such as Italy and Spain imported wheat, while other EU-27 countries exported their harvest. The Black Sea region - which includes Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Ukraine - is amongst the most promising area for grain exporters; it possess significant production potential in terms of both wheat yield and area increases. Black sea region is also located close to the traditional grain importers in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.
In the rapidly developing countries of Asia, westernization of diets associated with increasing prosperity is leading to growth in per capita demand for wheat at the expense of the other food staples.
In the past, there has been significant governmental intervention in wheat markets, such as price supports in the USA and farm payments in the EU. In the EU these subsidies have encouraged heavy use of fertilizers inputs with resulting high crop yields. In Australia and Argentina direct government subsidies are much lower.
The average world farm yield for wheat was 3.1 tonnes per hectare, in 2010.
Netherlands wheat farms were the most productive in 2010, with a nationwide average of 8.9 tonnes per hectare. Belgium was a close second.
Various regions of the world hold wheat production yield contests every year. Yields above 12 tonnes per hectare are routinely achieved in many parts of the world. Chris Dennison of Oamaru, New Zealand, set a world record for wheat yield in 2003 at 15.015 tonnes per hectare (223 bushels/acre). In 2010, this record was surpassed by another New Zealand farmer, Michael Solari, with 15.636 tonnes per hectare (232.64 bushels/acre) at Otama, Gore.
Wheat normally needs between 110 and 130 days between planting and harvest, depending upon climate, seed type, and soil conditions (winter wheat lies dormant during a winter freeze). Optimal crop management requires that the farmer have a detailed understanding of each stage of development in the growing plants. In particular, spring fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, growth regulators are typically applied only at specific stages of plant development. For example, it is currently recommended that the second application of nitrogen is best done when the ear (not visible at this stage) is about 1cm in size (Z31 on Zadoks scale). Knowledge of stages is also important to identify periods of higher risk from the climate. For example, pollen formation from the mother cell, and the stages between anthesis and maturity are susceptible to high temperatures, and this adverse effect is made worse by water stress. Farmers also benefit from knowing when the 'flag leaf' (last leaf) appears, as this leaf represents about 75% of photosynthesis reactions during the grain filling period, and so should be preserved from disease or insect attacks to ensure a good yield.
Several systems exist to identify crop stages, with the Feekes and Zadoks scales being the most widely used. Each scale is a standard system which describes successive stages reached by the crop during the agricultural season.
There are many wheat diseases, mainly caused by fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Plant breeding to develop new disease-resistant varieties, and sound crop management practices are important for preventing disease. Fungicides, used to prevent the significant crop losses from fungal disease, can be a significant variable cost in wheat production. Estimates of the amount of wheat production lost owing to plant diseases vary between 10–25% in Missouri. A wide range of organisms infect wheat, of which the most important are viruses and fungi.
The main wheat-disease categories are:
Wheat is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species including The Flame, Rustic Shoulder-knot, Setaceous Hebrew Character and Turnip Moth. Early in the season, birds and rodents can also cause significant damage to a crop by digging up and eating newly planted seeds or young plants. They can also damage the crop late in the season by eating the grain from the mature spike. Recent post-harvest losses in cereals amount to billions of dollars per year in the USA alone, and damage to wheat by various borers, beetles and weevils is no exception. Rodents can also cause major losses during storage, and in major grain growing regions, field mice numbers can sometimes build up explosively to plague proportions because of the ready availability of food. To reduce the amount of wheat lost to post-harvest pests, Agricultural Research Service scientists have developed an "insect-o-graph," which can detect insects in wheat that are not visible to the naked eye. The device uses electrical signals to detect the insects as the wheat is being milled. The new technology is so precise that it can detect 5-10 infested seeds out of 300,000 good ones. Tracking insect infestations in stored grain is critical for food safety as well as for the marketing value of the crop.
This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Wheat", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.
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