Serial No. 42236 ITIS 2002-09-22
Wheat is a grass widely cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain which
is a worldwide staple food. There are many species of wheat
which together make up the genus Triticum; the most widely grown is
common wheat (T. aestivum).
The archaeological record suggests that wheat was first cultivated in
the regions of the
Fertile Crescent around 9600 BCE. Botanically,
the wheat kernel is a type of fruit called a caryopsis.
Wheat is grown on more land area than any other food crop (220.4
million hectares, 2014). World trade in wheat is greater than for
all other crops combined. In 2016, world production of wheat was
749 million tonnes, making it the second most-produced cereal after
maize. Since 1960, world production of wheat and other grain
crops has tripled and is expected to grow further through the middle
of the 21st century. Global demand for wheat is increasing due to
the unique viscoelastic and adhesive properties of gluten proteins,
which facilitate the production of processed foods, whose consumption
is increasing as a result of the worldwide industrialization process
and the westernization of the diet.
Wheat is an important source of carbohydrates. Globally, it is the
leading source of vegetal protein in human food, having a protein
content of about 13%, which is relatively high compared to other major
cereals  but relatively low in protein quality for supplying
essential amino acids. When eaten as the whole grain, wheat is
a source of multiple nutrients and dietary fiber.
In a small part of the general population, gluten – the major part
of wheat protein – can trigger coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten
sensitivity, gluten ataxia and dermatitis herpetiformis.
2 Farming techniques
4.1 Hybrid wheat
5 Hulled versus free-threshing wheat
6.1 Major cultivated species of wheat
6.2 Classes used in the United States
7 As a food
7.2 Worldwide consumption
7.3 Health effects
7.4 Comparison with other staple foods
8 Commercial use
9 Production and consumption
9.1 Historical factors
9.2 Farming systems
9.3 Geographical variation
9.4 Most productive
9.5 Futures contracts
10.1 Crop development
12 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Spikelets of a hulled wheat, einkorn
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 (inside the
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
Cultivation of wheat began to spread beyond the
Fertile Crescent after
about 8000 BCE.
Jared Diamond traces the spread of cultivated
emmer wheat starting in the
Fertile Crescent sometime before 8800 BCE.
Archaeological analysis of wild emmer indicates that it was first
cultivated in the southern
Levant with finds dating back as far as
9600 BCE. 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 BCE.
Remains of harvested emmer from several sites near the Karacadag Range
have been dated to between 8600 (at Cayonu) and 8400 BCE (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
Mount Hermon in Syria. These remains were dated by Willem
van Zeist and his assistant Johanna Bakker-Heeres to 8800 BCE.
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.
The cultivation of emmer reached Greece, Cyprus and
6500 BCE, Egypt shortly after 6000 BCE, and
Spain by 5000 BCE. "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 BCE,
wheat had reached the British Isles and Scandinavia. A millennium
later it reached China.
The oldest evidence for hexaploid wheat has been confirmed through DNA
analysis of wheat seeds, dating to around 6400-6200 BCE, recovered
from Çatalhöyük. 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
approximately 1350 BCE at
Assiros in Macedonia.
From Asia, wheat continued to spread throughout Europe. In the British
Isles, wheat straw (thatch) was used for roofing in the Bronze Age,
and was in common use until the late 19th century.
Green wheat a month before harvest
Wheat harvest on the Palouse, Idaho, United States
Young wheat crop in a field near Solapur, Maharashtra, India
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. When the use of seed drills replaced
broadcasting sowing of seed in the 18th century, another great
increase in productivity occurred.
Yields of pure 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
expansion of wheat production occurred as new arable land was farmed
in the Americas and
Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries.
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).
Einkorn wheat (T. monococcum) is diploid (AA, two complements of seven
Most tetraploid wheats (e.g. emmer and durum wheat) are derived from
wild emmer, T. dicoccoides. Wild emmer is itself the result of a
hybridization between two diploid wild grasses, T. urartu and a wild
goatgrass such as Aegilops searsii or Ae. speltoides. The unknown
grass has never been identified among now surviving wild grasses, but
the closest living relative is Aegilops speltoides. The
hybridization that formed wild emmer (AABB) occurred in the wild, long
before domestication, and was driven by natural selection.
Hexaploid wheats evolved in farmers' fields. Either domesticated emmer
or durum wheat hybridized with yet another wild diploid grass
(Aegilops tauschii) to make the hexaploid wheats, spelt wheat and
bread wheat. These have three sets of paired chromosomes, three
times as many as in diploid wheat.
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 worldwide,
and were major factors in the success of the
Green Revolution in
Mexico and Asia, an initiative led by Norman Borlaug. 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.
Wild grasses in the genus Triticum and related genera, and grasses
such as rye have been a source of many disease-resistance traits for
cultivated wheat breeding since the 1930s.
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
United States 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
Aegilops tauschii and various durum wheats are now being
deployed, and these increase the genetic diversity of cultivated
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
On 29 November 2012, an essentially complete gene set of bread wheat
was published. Random shotgun libraries of total DNA and cDNA from
the T. aestivum cv. Chinese Spring (CS42) were sequenced in Roche 454
pyrosequencer using GS FLX Titanium and GS FLX+ platforms to generate
85 Gb of sequence (220 million reads), equivalent to 5X genome
coverage and identified between 94,000 and 96,000 genes.
This sequence data provides direct access to about 96,000 genes,
relying on orthologous gene sets from other cereals. and represents an
essential step towards a systematic understanding of biology and
engineering the cereal crop for valuable traits. Its implications in
cereal genetics and breeding includes the examination of genome
variation, association mapping using natural populations, performing
wide crosses and alien introgression, studying the expression and
nucleotide polymorphism in transcriptomes, analyzing population
genetics and evolutionary biology, and studying the epigenetic
modifications. Moreover, the availability of large-scale genetic
markers generated through NGS technology will facilitate trait mapping
and make marker-assisted breeding much feasible.
Moreover, the data not only facilitate in deciphering the complex
phenomena such as heterosis and epigenetics, it may also enable
breeders to predict which fragment of a chromosome is derived from
which parent in the progeny line, thereby recognizing crossover events
occurring in every progeny line and inserting markers on genetic and
physical maps without ambiguity. In due course, this will assist in
introducing specific chromosomal segments from one cultivar to
another. Besides, the researchers had identified diverse classes of
genes participating in energy production, metabolism and growth that
were probably linked with crop yield, which can now be utilized for
the development of transgenic wheat. Thus whole genome sequence of
wheat and the availability of thousands of SNPs will inevitably permit
the breeders to stride towards identifying novel traits, providing
biological knowledge and empowering biodiversity-based breeding.
Sheaved and stooked wheat
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.
The major breeding objectives include high grain yield, good quality,
disease and insect resistance and tolerance to abiotic stresses,
including 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.
Wheat has also been the subject of mutation breeding, with the use of
gamma, x-rays, ultraviolet light, and sometimes harsh chemicals. The
varieties of wheat created through these methods are in the hundreds
(going as far back as 1960), more of them being created in higher
populated countries such as China.
Bread wheat with high grain
iron and zinc content was developed through gamma radiation
breeding. Modern bread wheat varieties have been cross-bred to
contain greater amounts of gluten, which affords significant
advantages for improving the quality of breads and pastas from a
functional point of view.
Gluten is appreciated for its unique
viscoelastic properties. It gives elasticity to dough and is
responsible for dough’s gas-retaining properties.
Because wheat self-pollinates, creating hybrid varieties is extremely
labor-intensive; the high cost of hybrid wheat seed relative to its
moderate benefits have kept farmers from adopting them widely
despite nearly 90 years of effort.
F1 hybrid wheat cultivars
should not be confused with wheat cultivars deriving from standard
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 in the botanical
sense, meaning they have both male and female parts, 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.
Hulled versus free-threshing wheat
Left: Naked wheat,
Bread wheat Triticum aestivum; Right: Hulled wheat,
Einkorn, Triticum monococcum. Note how the einkorn ear breaks down
into intact spikelets.
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
Further information: Taxonomy of wheat
Sack of wheat
Model of a wheat grain, Botanical Museum Greifswald
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:
Growing season, such as winter wheat vs. spring wheat.
Bread wheat protein content ranges from 10% in some
soft wheats with high starch contents, to 15% in hard wheats.
The quality of the wheat protein gluten. This protein can determine
the suitability of a wheat to a particular dish. A strong and elastic
gluten present in bread wheats enables dough to trap carbon dioxide
during leavening, but elastic gluten interferes with the rolling of
pasta into thin sheets. The gluten protein in durum wheats used for
pasta is strong but not elastic.
Grain color (red, white or amber). Many wheat varieties are
reddish-brown due to phenolic compounds present in the bran layer
which are transformed to pigments by browning enzymes. White wheats
have a lower content of phenolics and browning enzymes, and are
generally less astringent in taste than red wheats. The yellowish
color of durum wheat and semolina flour made from it is due to a
carotenoid pigment called lutein, which can be oxidized to a colorless
form by enzymes present in the grain.
Major cultivated species of wheat
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Common wheat or bread wheat (T. aestivum) – A hexaploid species
that is the most widely cultivated in the world.
Spelt (T. spelta) – Another hexaploid species cultivated in
Spelt is sometimes considered a
subspecies[by whom?] of the closely related species common wheat (T.
aestivum), in which case its botanical name is considered to be T.
aestivum ssp. spelta.
Durum (T. durum) – A tetraploid form of wheat widely used
today, and the second most widely cultivated wheat.
Emmer (T. dicoccon) – A tetraploid species, cultivated in
ancient times but no longer in widespread use.
Khorasan (T. turgidum ssp. turanicum, also called T. turanicum) is a
tetraploid wheat species. It is an ancient grain type; Khorasan refers
to a historical region in modern-day Afghanistan and the northeast of
Iran. This grain is twice the size of modern-day wheat and is known
for its rich nutty flavor.
Einkorn (T. monococcum) – A diploid species with wild and
cultivated variants. Domesticated at the same time as emmer wheat.
Classes used in the United States
The classes used in the
United States are:
Durum – Very hard, translucent, light-colored grain used to
make semolina flour for pasta & bulghur; high in protein,
specifically, gluten protein.
Hard Red Spring – Hard, brownish, high-protein wheat used for
bread and hard baked goods.
Flour and high-gluten flours are
commonly made from hard red spring wheat. It is primarily traded at
Hard Red Winter – Hard, brownish, mellow high-protein wheat
used for bread, hard baked goods and as an adjunct in other flours to
increase protein in pastry flour for pie crusts. Some brands of
unbleached all-purpose flours are commonly made from hard red winter
wheat alone. It is primarily traded on the Kansas City Board of Trade.
One variety is known as "turkey red wheat", and was brought to Kansas
Mennonite immigrants from Russia.
Soft Red Winter – Soft, low-protein wheat used for cakes, pie
crusts, biscuits, and muffins.
Cake flour, pastry flour, and some
self-rising flours with baking powder and salt added, for example, are
made from soft red winter wheat. It is primarily traded on the Chicago
Board of Trade.
Hard White – Hard, light-colored, opaque, chalky,
medium-protein wheat planted in dry, temperate areas. Used for bread
Soft White – Soft, light-colored, very low protein wheat grown
in temperate moist areas. Used for pie crusts and pastry. Pastry
flour, for example, is sometimes made from soft white winter wheat.
Red wheats may need bleaching; therefore, white wheats usually command
higher prices than red wheats on the commodities market.
As a food
Wheat is used in a wide variety of foods.
Wheat, hard red winter
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
1,368 kJ (327 kcal)
Pantothenic acid (B5)
Link to USDA Database Entry
μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for
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,
beer, vodka, boza (a fermented beverage), and breakfast cereals.
In manufacturing wheat products, gluten is valuable to impart
viscoelastic functional qualities in dough, enabling the
preparation of diverse processed foods such as breads, noodles, and
pasta that facilitate wheat consumption.
In 100 grams, wheat provides 327 calories and is a rich source (20% or
more of the Daily Value, DV) of multiple essential nutrients, such as
protein, dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus and niacin (table).
B vitamins and other dietary minerals are in significant
Wheat is 13% water, 71% carbohydrates, and 1.5% fat. Its 13%
protein content is mostly gluten (75-80% of the protein in wheat).
Wheat proteins have a low quality for human nutrition, according to
the new protein quality method (DIAAS) promoted by the Food and
Agriculture Organization. Though they contain adequate amounts
of the other essential amino acids, at least for adults, wheat
proteins are deficient in the essential amino acid, lysine.
Because the proteins present in the wheat endosperm (gluten proteins)
are particularly poor in lysine, white flours are more deficient in
lysine compared with whole grains. Significant efforts in plant
breeding are being made to develop lysine-rich wheat varieties,
without success as of 2017. Supplementation with proteins from
other food sources (mainly legumes) is commonly used to compensate for
this deficiency, since the limitation of a single essential amino
acid causes the others to break down and become excreted, which is
especially important during the period of growth.
Nutrient contents in %DV of common foods (raw, uncooked) per 100
cooking Reduction %
Ch. = Choline; Ca = Calcium; Fe = Iron; Mg = Magnesium; P =
Phosphorus; K = Potassium; Na = Sodium; Zn = Zinc; Cu = Copper; Mn =
Manganese; Se = Selenium; %DV = % daily value i.e. % of DRI
(Dietary Reference Intake) Note: All nutrient values including protein
and fiber are in %DV per 100 grams of the food item. Significant
values are highlighted in light Gray color and bold letters. 
Cooking reduction = % Maximum typical reduction in nutrients due
to boiling without draining for ovo-lacto-vegetables group Q =
Protein in terms of completeness without adjusting for
100 g (3.5 oz) of hard red winter wheat contain about
12.6 g (0.44 oz) of protein, 1.5 g (0.053 oz) of
total fat, 71 g (2.5 oz) of carbohydrate (by difference),
12.2 g (0.43 oz) of dietary fiber, and 3.2 mg
(0.00011 oz) of iron (17% of the daily requirement); the same
weight of hard red spring wheat contains about 15.4 g
(0.54 oz) of protein, 1.9 g (0.067 oz) of total fat,
68 g (2.4 oz) of carbohydrate (by difference), 12.2 g
(0.43 oz) of dietary fiber, and 3.6 mg (0.00013 oz) of
iron (20% of the daily requirement).
Wheat is grown on more than 218,000,000 hectares (540,000,000
acres), a larger area 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. 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, approximately 4,000 m (13,000 ft) 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.[citation
The most common forms of wheat are white and red wheat. However, other
natural forms of wheat exist. Other commercially minor but
nutritionally promising species of naturally evolved wheat species
include black, yellow and blue wheat.
Consumed worldwide by billions of people, wheat is a significant food
for human nutrition, particularly in the least developed countries
where wheat products are primary foods. When eaten as the whole
grain, wheat is a healthy food source of multiple nutrients and
dietary fiber recommended for children and adults, in several daily
servings containing a variety of foods that meet whole grain-rich
Dietary fiber may also help people feel full
and therefore help with a healthy weight. Further, wheat is a
major source for natural and biofortified nutrient supplementation,
including dietary fiber, protein and dietary minerals.
Manufacturers of foods containing wheat as a whole grain in specified
amounts are allowed a health claim for marketing purposes in the
United States, stating: "low fat diets rich in fiber-containing grain
products, fruits, and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of
cancer, a disease associated with many factors" and "diets low in
saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables, and
grain products that contain some types of dietary fiber, particularly
soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of heart disease, a disease
associated with many factors". The scientific opinion of the
European Food Safety Authority
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) related to health claims on gut
health/bowel function, weight control, blood glucose/insulin levels,
weight management, blood cholesterol, satiety, glycaemic index,
digestive function and cardiovascular health is "that the food
constituent, whole grain, (...) is not sufficiently characterised in
relation to the claimed health effects" and "that a cause and effect
relationship cannot be established between the consumption of whole
grain and the claimed effects considered in this opinion."
In genetically susceptible people, gluten – a major part of wheat
protein – can trigger coeliac disease. Coeliac disease
affects about 1% of the general population in developed
countries. There is evidence that most cases remain
undiagnosed and untreated. The only known effective treatment is a
strict lifelong gluten-free diet.
While coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, it is
not the same as a wheat allergy. Other diseases triggered by
eating gluten are non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, (estimated
to affect 0.5% to 13% of the general population), gluten ataxia
and dermatitis herpetiformis.
Comparison with other staple foods
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.).
Nutrient content of major staple foods per 100 g portion
Maize / Corn[A]
Vitamin C (mg)
Niacin (B3) (mg)
Pantothenic acid (B5) (mg)
Vitamin B6 (mg)
Folate Total (B9) (μg)
Vitamin A (IU)
Vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol (mg)
Vitamin K1 (μg)
Saturated fatty acids (g)
Monounsaturated fatty acids (g)
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (g)
A yellow corn
B raw unenriched long-grain white rice
C hard red winter wheat
D raw potato with flesh and skin
E raw cassava
F raw green soybeans
G raw sweet potato
H raw sorghum
Y raw yam
Z raw plantains
I raw long-grain brown rice
Harvested wheat grain that enters trade is classified according to
grain properties for the purposes of the commodity markets. 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,
for example, 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.
Utensil made of wheat straw for loaves of bread
In recent years, low international wheat prices have often encouraged
farmers in the
United States to change to more profitable crops. In
1998, the price at harvest of a 60 pounds (27 kg) bushel was
$2.68 per. Some information providers, following CBOT practice,
quote the wheat market in per ton denomination. 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.
Production and consumption
A map of worldwide wheat production.
Main article: International wheat production statistics
The combine Claas
Lexion 584 06833 is threshing the wheat. The combine
crushes the chaff and blows it across the field.
The combine Claas
Lexion 584 06833 mows, threshes, shreds the chaff
and blows it across the field. At the same time the combine loads the
threshed wheat onto a trailer while moving at full speed.
In 2016, global wheat production was 749 million tonnes.
the primary food staple in North Africa and the Middle East, and is
growing in uses in Asia. Unlike rice, wheat production is more
widespread globally, though 47% of the world total in 2014 was
produced by just four countries – China, India,
Russia and the
United States (table).
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 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 2014, the most productive crop yields for wheat were in Ireland,
producing 10 tonnes per hectare. In addition to gaps 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 farmers' 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 the retail level.
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
Top wheat producers in 2014
millions of tonnes
Source: UN Food &
There are substantial differences in wheat farming, trading, policy,
sector growth, and wheat uses in different regions of the world.
The largest exporters of wheat in 2013 were, in order of exported
United States (33.2 million tonnes),
Canada (19.8 million
France (19.6 million tonnes),
Australia (18 million tonnes),
and the Russian Federation (13.8 million tonnes). The largest
importers of wheat in 2013 were, in order of imported quantities:
Egypt (10.3 million tonnes), Brazil (7.3 million tonnes), Indonesia
(6.7 million tonnes), Algeria (6.3 million tonnes) and Japan (6.2
In the rapidly developing countries of Asia and Africa, westernization
of diets associated with increasing prosperity is leading to growth in
per capita demand for wheat at the expense of the other food
In the past, there has been significant governmental intervention in
wheat markets, such as price supports in the US and farm payments in
the EU. In the EU, these subsidies have encouraged heavy use of
fertilizer inputs with resulting high crop yields. In
Argentina, direct government subsidies are much lower.
The average annual world farm yield for wheat in 2014 was 3.3 tonnes
per hectare (330 grams per square meter). Ireland wheat farms were
the most productive in 2014, with a nationwide average of 10.0 tonnes
per hectare, followed by the Netherlands (9.2), and Germany, New
Zealand and the United Kingdom (each with 8.6).
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
Wheat spikelet with the three anthers sticking out
Wheat normally needs between 110 and 130 days between sowing 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, and 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 1 cm 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.
Wheat at the anthesis stage. Face view (left) and side view (right)
and wheat ear at the late milk
Wheat diseases and List of wheat diseases
Rust-affected wheat seedlings
There are many wheat diseases, mainly caused by fungi, bacteria, and
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:
Seed-borne diseases: these include seed-borne scab, seed-borne
Stagonospora (previously known as Septoria), common bunt (stinking
smut), and loose smut. These are managed with fungicides.
Leaf- and head- blight diseases: Powdery mildew, leaf rust, Septoria
tritici leaf blotch,
Stagonospora (Septoria) nodorum leaf and glume
Fusarium head scab.
Crown and root rot diseases: Two of the more important of these are
'take-all' and Cephalosporium stripe. Both of these diseases are soil
Stem rust diseases: Caused by basidiomycete fungi e.g. Ug99
Wheat spindle streak mosaic (yellow mosaic) and barley
yellow dwarf are the two most common viral diseases. Control can be
achieved by using resistant varieties.
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, many species of birds, including the long-tailed
widowbird, and rodents feed upon wheat crops. These animals can 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 United
States 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
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
Agriculture and Agronomy portal
List of cereals
Taxonomy of wheat
Wheat germ oil
Wheat production in the United States
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wheat.
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Triticum species at Purdue University
Triticum aestivum: facts, developmental stages, and inflorescence at
What is Wheat? USDA Classroom handout
Wheat pools in Canada
Plant parts and their uses
Berries or groats
As an ingredient
Wheat germ oil
Associated human diseases
non-celiac gluten sensitivity
Tell Abu Hureyra
Cereals and pseudocereals
Neolithic founder crops
History of agriculture
Tell Abu Hureyra
Crop wild relative
Biomass heating systems
Cellulosic ethanol commercialization
Energy content of biofuel
Food vs. fuel