Wheat is an annual grass belonging to the Poaceae (Gramineae) family, and represents one of the world’s most important fi eld crops. In contrast to the other cereal grains, wheat possess the unique gluten proteins capable of forming the fully visco-elastic dough required to produce pasta, noodles and leavened baked products, especially bread.
Additionally, wheat and wheat derivatives such as wheat malt, fl our and starch are commonly used as adjuncts in the brewing industry. Wheat also provides essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, benefi cial phytochemicals and dietary fi bre components to the human diet, particularly when whole-grain products are consumed.
Despite their important role in the human diet, wheat-based foods present health problems for a minority of people due in particular to wheat intolerance and allergy as coeliac disease and baker’s asthma, respectively. To meet the predicted future demand for wheat, improvements in wheat productivity through an effi cient wheat breeding plan and crop management innovations are required. Key words: wheat, chemical composition.
Wheat is one of the major grains in the diet of a vast proportion of the world’s population. It has therefore a great impact on the nutritional quality of the meals consumed by a large number of people and consequently on their health. Although wheat’s ability to produce high yields under a wide range of conditions is one reason for its popularity compared to other cereals, the most important factor is the capability of wheat gluten proteins to form a visco-elastic dough, which is required to bake leavened bread in particular.
These gluten proteins are necessary for the production of the great variety of foods associated with wheat around the world. This unique property is the reason why in 2009 the total world harvest was about 680 million tonnes (metric tons, t) with cultivation extending to all continents except Antarctica and reaching about 217 million hectares (world harvest area expressed in hectare) (FAO/UN, 2012). During the last 40 years, wheat