Wheat constitutes almost 30% of all global cereal production, with two species, the common bread wheat (Triticum aestivum vulgare) and the macaroni wheat, the durum form (T. turgidum), being most widely cultivated.
There are two types of wheat <<winter>> and <<spring>>. Winter wheat is grown in areas where the soil does not freeze hard; planting taking place in autumn with harvesting the following summer. Areas with cold winters grow spring wheat, which is sown in early spring and harvested before frosts begin in late autumn
Winter wheat produces a soft grain which makes a fine flour useful for making biscuit and cakes. Harder spring wheat grains make a granular flour ideal for making bread.
Wheat improvement programmes have already identified varieties that show a tolerance to otherwise toxic levels of free aluminium the soil, and seeds which perform well in acidic soils. But relatively little effort has been made to use modern breeding techniques to adapt wheat plants to soils of poor nutritional status, such as those in much of the tropics. Furthermore, there is scant evidence to suggest that increased protein content in either wheat or Triticale can be combined with high-yield, (protein deficiency being an important factor in improving health in developing countries).
In the past, wheat consumption has been an indicator of the degree of industrialisation and urbanisation of a country. Demand for leavened bread in the northern industrialized countries rose dramatically in the 19th century, but has been on the decline ever since. Meanwhile, as counties in Asia, Africa and the Pacific continue to become more developed, the demand for bread is rising, especially in the cities.
Several of these nations are resorting to a rarety of ploys to try and reduce the burden of wheat imports. A composite Flour Programme was begun by the FAO in 1965, which encouraged people to use flours and starches other than wheat in bakery products. As a result, in Senegal, two kinds of composite wheat flour were introduced. <<Completely new bread>> uses wheat flour mixed with 30% millet flour and 7% peanut flour. <<Normal wheat bread>> has 20% cassava starch, enriched with soya or peanut flour. In Brazil, all wheat flour products must use at least 5% cassava flour.
Satisfying the demand for wheat in the tropics from domestic production will not be easy. Many nations which have regularly imported wheat have established processing facilities, but these have been sited close to the major coastal ports. Unfortunately, this will do little to ease the problems for countries wishing to set up their own wheat industry at any distance from these facilities. In Nigeria, for example, areas with potential for domestic wheat production are 1,000 km from the port-based processing factory, the port also happening to be the largest city and consumer of wheat.
Moreover, large-scale processing mills are not able to deal efficiently and economically with small amount of domestically-grown wheat. It seems likely that small rural processing facilities will have to be established if local wheat production is to be a success.
A Guide to Staple Foods of the World;
Wheat Production Constraints in Tropical
Environments; Klatt A.R. (Ed); CIMMYT 1988
The Fifth Regional Wheat Workshop
Van Ginkel and Tanner (Eds); ClMMYT 1988
Wheat in the Tropics: Whether and When?
Byerlee D and J. Longmire; Ceres 19.3 May 1986
International Agricultural Research and Human
Pinstrup-Anderson, Berg and Froman (Eds)
International Food Policy Research Institute 1984
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