The Importance of Wheat

The history of wheat domestication and use is closely linked to the efforts of humans to protect themselves from hunger and gain control over their food supply. Now grown worldwide wheat has become the most important source of food. For centuries bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) and durum wheat (Triticum durum) have been cultivated in the West to provide humans with energy and essential nutrients. Today China and India are the top two wheat-producing countries, largely because wheat has the advantage of requiring less water for cultivation than other comparable crops while being the main ingredient of a variety of processed foods valued in modern, mainly urban life. For more than a century, breeders have continuously improved wheat focusing on factors affecting grain yield and, more recently, technological quality. The properties of wheat that are ideal for processing into different food products have been greatly improved since the 1960s thanks to detailed research on storage proteins, which constitute the gluten. Most of these genetic successes are referred to in this book but many important goals remain to be achieved. Today further progress is crucial in the use of shared genetic resources, common analytical protocols for allele identification and technological processing, and dedicated tools for analysing polymer formation and characterisation particularly in response to climatic and other environmental factors. Technological properties are not the only wheat quality attributes, as consumers are increasingly aware and concerned about the nutritional value (the content in fiber, minerals, macro- and micro-nutrients, vitamins) and the health impact, whether positive or negative. For example, research on several pathologies associated with the consumption of gluten-based products will require collaboration between allergy specialists and wheat protein geneticists.

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DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-34163-3_1
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