Wheat

Wheat

Wheat

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 wild.

Description

This grain is grown on more land area than any other commercial food (220.4 million hectares, 2014). World trade in wheat is greater than for all other crops combined. Globally, wheat 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 and staple foods. The archaeological record suggests that wheat was first cultivated in the regions of the Fertile Crescent around 9600 BCE.

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