Wheat (Triticum aestiimm L.) is grown around the world and has the widest adaptation of gill the cereals. Diploid and tetraploid types were first domesticated in the Middle East at least 9000 years ago. Hybridization of the two led to the development of hexaploid wheat, which is the common type grown today. Statistics compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization (1) indicate that in 1998 there was nearly 225 million hectares of wheat grown worldwide for a total production of roughly 589 million metric tons of grain. This represents the largest production area and second largest amount of grain produced of any of the cereals grown globally.
Unlike many cereals, wheat is mainly a food, rather than a feed, crop. Cultivars are classified according to the texture of the endosperm and the protein content of the grain. These characteristics affect the way the grain breaks down upon milling and the properties of the flour for various food applications. Wheat has unique baking properties, the most notable of which is the elasticity of its gluten protein. Foods made of wheat provide nourishment for millions of people around the world because it is an important source of carbohydrate (i.e., starch).
A significant amount of wheat is also used for animal feed. The actual amount is normally a function of price, which in turn is dependent upon the price of other available cereals, such as maize. Small amounts of wheat starch and flour are also used for industrial applications. Much of the wheat starch produced in the world is sold in an unmodified form. Primary applications are in the paper industry and as adhesives for the manufacture of corrugated board.
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