Wheat is a grain, which belongs to the grass family. A grain is defined as a plant that
produces a dry edible seed, which is called a kernel or berry. Wheat produces a seed
that is commonly called a kernel. Corn, grain sorghum, rice, oats, and rye are other
examples of grains.
It is estimated that wheat was cultivated some 9,000 years ago in the Euphrates
Valley, near what is now Iraq. Since then, wheat has been a staple crop around the
world and today continues to be used as a nutritional food source and as a supply for
Wheat — Feeding the World
Grain-based foods, like those produced with wheat, provide complex carbohydrates,
which are the best fuel for our bodies, are low in fat, high in fiber, and provide
vitamins, especially the 4 key B vitamins, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, and Folic
Acid, as well as iron. Wheat provides us with a nutritious and delicious supply of
breads, pasta, cereals, crackers, bagels, and many other food products that has
wheat as an ingredient.
More than just Bread...
But, did you know that wheat is used in many other products that you use?
Straw particle board (wood) – used in kitchen cabinets
Biodegradable golf tees
Adhesives on postage stamps
Biodegradable plastic eating utensils
And much more!
For a complete list of the alternative and industrial uses of wheat from Kansas Wheat,
check out http://www.kswheat.com/general.asp?id=119 .
What is the difference between winter wheat and spring wheat?
Some wheat is planted and sprouts in the fall, lies dormant all winter, and then
grows again in the spring to be harvested in early summer. These types of wheat are
called winter wheat. Winter wheat grows best in areas where the winters are not too
Other types of wheat are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. These types
of wheat are called spring wheat. Spring wheat grows best in the northern United
States where the summers are not too hot for the young plants.
Winters in Kansas are not too cold for winter wheat, even though sometimes it feels
like it to you and me! Kansas summers are too hot for spring wheat, so most
producers in Kansas grow winter wheat.
What are the different classes of wheat? How does a farmer decide which type to grow?
There are 6 different classes grown in the United States that bring order to the over
30,000 varieties of wheat: Hard Red Winter,
Hard Red Spring, Soft Red Winter, Durum,
Hard White, and Soft White.
The class a variety fits into is determined by
its hardness, the color of its kernels, and by
planting time. Each class has its own uniform
characteristics related to milling, baking, or
other food uses.
Farmers choose a class of wheat to grow based
on the climate and other conditions present
where they farm. The majority of Kansas
farmers grow Hard Red Winter Wheat.
Pictured above is Hard Red Wheat kernels
Courtesy of the Wheat Foods Council
A Year in the Life of a Kansas Wheat Field
September is wheat-planting time in Kansas. Wheat is planted with a drill, which is an
implement that is pulled behind a tractor. The drill makes furrows. The furrow is open in
the center, wheat seeds are dropped into the opening, and then the seeds are covered with
a thin layer of soil.
Winter wheat sprouts and grows some during the fall, but becomes
dormant after the first frost. Even though the plants are dormant, it is
still important to check the plants to be sure they are healthy and are
not being damaged by weeds, insects, or diseases.
The wheat begins to grow again in the spring. Wheat plants usually grow
2 to 4 feet tall. In early summer in Kansas, the green wheat plants start
to gradually change color until they are a rich golden color by harvest.
The stalks and the wheat seeds must be dry so the plants can be cut
easily and the seeds stored without spoiling. When the wheat is ready to
be cut, the wheat plants are actually dead and drying up. When the wheat head starts to
“nod,” that’s the sign to farmers it is time to cut the wheat! Harvest is an important time
since wheat farmers receive their pay for a year’s worth of work at harvest.
Wheat must be harvested at the right time. The right time is different for every part of the
state. Typically, harvest starts in June at the southern border of Kansas. The wheat harvest
spreads north and west. Wheat harvest ends in Kansas in early July at the Nebraska border
and mid-July at the Colorado border.
For thousands of years, entire fields were harvested by
hand. The sickle was the common methods for cutting
wheat and threshing was done by beating to separate the
kernels. Some cultures still harvest wheat by this method.
Today, in developed countries, wheat is harvested with a
machine called a combine.
The combine cuts off the heads of the plants, shakes the wheat kernels out of the heads,
and separates the kernels from all the other plant materials. The kernels are moved into a
grain tank on the combine. All the extra plant material is blown out of the back of the
combine and spread across the field. When the grain tank on the combine is full, the grain
is deposited into a truck that drives the wheat to a grain elevator for storage.
Harvest is finished for this year, but the work is not done for
farmers! It is now time to prepare the field for planting wheat
in just 2 or 3 months.
After the wheat kernels are harvested and farmers have sold
their wheat, the milling process begins. Milling takes the raw
wheat kernel and grinds it into flour. Modern technology
allows millers to use machinery to grind kernels into flour. The flour is then delivered to
bakeries or is sacked and sold to consumers.
What is the difference between whole wheat and white bread?
Both whole wheat and white breads are made from wheat.
They may taste differently and have different textures since different varieties of wheat
are used in production.
White flour is produced by removing the
bran and germ portions of the kernel. The
endosperm is then finely ground to create
white flour. Ninety-five percent of products
made from white flour are enriched. This
means nutrients are replaced that are lost
during the milling process. Enriched grain
products, such as enriched white bread, are
a good source of iron, B vitamins,
and complex carbohydrates
. Whole wheat bread and whole
wheat products are made with
the whole kernel of wheat. Whole
grain bread and whole grain products
doesn’t necessarily mean 100% wheat. The
term whole grain means all 3 parts of the
kernel are used, but the grain used could be
wheat, corn, oats, barley, or a combination
of a number of different grains, such as in
multi-grain breads and products.
Did you know?
The enrichment of white bread and
rolls was made mandatory by the
Federal government in 1941 as a war
measure to improve nutrition.
After the war, enrichment became
voluntary, but many millers still
continue the practice today.
Nutrition experts suggest that at least
half of our daily grains come from whole
grain products. The total number
needed depends on age, gender, and
activity level. Refer to: myPyramid.gov
to determine how many grains you need
each day to be healthy.
Is bleached white flour harmful?
No, there are no residues remaining after bleaching. The Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) permits the use of specific additives that have a maturing
effect on the flour that improves baking qualities as well as bleaching the flour.
Flour that has been processed this way must be labeled as bleached flour.
How much wheat does one acre produce?
In the U.S., one acre of wheat yields an average of 37.1 bushels of wheat.
One bushel of wheat yields 42 commercial loaves of white bread.
One acre of wheat can produce more than 1,500 loaves of bread.
An acre is almost the size of a football field or 43,560 square feet.
credit/Provided by Kansas Farm Bureau to educate young people, parents and teachers
about where our food comes from. America’s food supply is safe, affordable and
abundant but also vastly misunderstood by the consuming public.
It is the intention of Kansas Farm Bureau to improve the public’s knowledge about
the importance farming and ranching plays in our quality of life. @copyright