by Kim Cooper
Our local farmers have recently harvested another crop of wheat. Here in Southwestern Ontario, we grow winter wheat, which is planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. Other areas, including out west, grow spring wheat, which is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall.
Wheat is one of the three most produced cereals in the world, along with corn and rice. Canada is the world’s sixth-largest producer of wheat and one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat. Canadian wheat is currently exported to over 70 countries around the world.
Within Canada, wheat has traditionally been the most important cultivated crop in terms of acres, except for this year, when canola was grown on more acres than wheat was.
Wheat has several uses, including flour for baked goods and pasta, and feed for livestock. In addition, it is used to make beer, vodka and biofuel. Wheat contains gluten protein, which forms minute gas cells that hold carbon dioxide during fermentation, allowing dough to rise and resulting in light bread. Importers of Canadian wheat often blend it with weaker wheats before using it for bread. For this reason, much effort goes into maintaining the strength and mixing qualities of Canadian wheat. More foods are made from wheat than any other grain.
Close to half of all Canadian wheat is grown in Saskatchewan, followed by Alberta and Manitoba.
Wheat was domesticated in Southwest Asia over thousands of years and spread across Asia, Africa and Europe. Introduction to North America took place in the late 15th and early16th century.
In Canada, wheat was probably first grown at Port-Royal (near Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia) around 1605 and the first exports were made in 1654. Although personnel at some Hudson’s Bay Company posts experimented with wheat, and the settlers at the Red River Colony had some success in 1815, the early years in Western Canada were tough ones for wheat farmers. Many varieties from Europe were tried: some were winter wheats that could not survive Canada’s severe winters; others were spring wheats that matured too late for the short growing season.
Two varieties of wheat, Red Fife, developed in the late 1800’s, and Marquis, developed in the early 1900’s became very popular because of its good yield and excellent milling and baking qualities. Both of these wheat varieties were developed in Ontario.
One bushel of wheat contains approximately one million individual kernels, weighs approximately 60 pounds and yields approximately 42 pounds of white flour or 60 pounds of whole wheat flour.
The properties that make wheat suitable in food products, which are gluten (protein) and starch, also make wheat functional in non-food and industrial applications. Wheat gluten is unique due to its ability to be elastic, bind water and form films that can be stabilized with heat. These properties make wheat gluten useful for the preparations of adhesives, coatings, polymers and resins, as well as other non-food products including straw particle board used in kitchen cabinets, paper, hair conditioners, adhesives on postage stamps, medical swabs, baskets, hats and plastic wrap.
At least 80% of the content of wheat is carbohydrate. 9-15% of the content of wheat is protein. Wheat also contains essential vitamins and minerals including B-vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and other trace elements.
Also, never refrigerate any bread product. Bread products go stale up to six times faster in the refrigerator. Leave these products at room temperature or freeze them.
Here in Chatham-Kent ‘WE GROW FOR THE WORLD’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at: wegrowfortheworld.com
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 40 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy’