Wheat is a member of the grass family widely cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain which is a worldwide staple food.
There are many species of wheat which together make up the genus Triticum.
About 95% of the wheat produced is common wheat (Triticum aestivum) also known as bread wheat. Common wheat is the most widely grown of all crops, and the cereal with the highest monetary yield.
The archaeological record suggests that wheat was first cultivated in the regions of the Fertile Crescent (also known as the cradle of civilization) around 9600 BC.
Wheat is grown to some extent on every continent except Antarctica.
Wheat is grown on more land area than any other food crop 220.4 million hectares (544.6 million acres).
In 2016, world production of wheat was 749 million tonnes, making it the second most-produced cereal after maize (corn).
World trade in wheat is greater than for all other crops combined.
Globally, wheat is the leading source of vegetable protein in human food, having higher protein content than other major cereals such as maize (corn) or rice.
With rice, wheat is the world’s most favored staple food.
It is a major diet component because of the wheat plant’s agronomic adaptability with the ability to grow from near arctic regions to equator, from sea level to plains of Tibet, approximately 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level.
All types of wheat can be divided in two major groups: spring and winter wheat. Spring wheat is planted during the spring and harvested during the summer. Winter wheat is planted at autumn and harvested during the spring.
Botanically, the wheat kernel is a type of fruit called a caryopsis.
The kernel is the seed from which the wheat plant grows. The kernel has 3 distinct parts: the bran (outer layer), endosperm (nutritive matter used for development of embryo) and germ (embryo).
Wheat normally needs between 110 and 130 days between sowing and harvest, depending upon climate, seed type, and soil conditions (winter wheat lies dormant during a winter freeze).
Some varieties of wheat grow as tall as 210 centimeters (7 feet), but most are between 60 and 120 centimeters (2 and 4 feet) tall.
The wheat plant has long, slender leaves, stems that are hollow in most types of wheat plants, and heads that have many kinds of flowers, from 20 to 100. The flowers are grouped together in spikelets. Each spikelet has two to six flowers. In most spikelets, two or three of the flowers become fertilized, and this makes them produce the grains used for food. Color of the grains depends on the variety of wheat. It can be red, amber, blue, purple, brown or white.
It grows best when temperatures are warm, from 21° to 24° C (70° to 75° F).
During the early summer, the plants begin to fade from dark green to tan and then to a golden brown. Then the wheat is ripe and ready for harvest.
Because wheat is such a versatile crop, it is being harvested somewhere in the world every month of the year.
Most of the wheat is harvested with combine harvesters. Combine removes the heads from the stem and separates kernels from the rest of the inedible plant material.
It takes a combine nine seconds to harvest enough wheat to make 70 loaves of bread.
In 100 grams, wheat provides 327 calories and is a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value) of multiple essential nutrients, such as protein, dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus and niacin (table). Several B vitamins and other dietary minerals are in significant content.
Wheat is 13% water, 71% carbohydrates, and 1.5% fat.
Its 13% protein content is comprised mostly of gluten as 75-80% of total wheat protein, which upon digestion, contributes amino acids for human nutrition.
When eaten as the whole grain, wheat is a healthy food source of multiple nutrients and dietary fiber recommended for children and adults in several daily servings amounting to about one third of total food intake.
Research has already proven that wheat is extremely beneficial for healthy living. It considerably lowers the hazards of heart diseases, owing to its comparatively low fat content. It also regulates blood glucose levels in diabetic patients.
The health benefits of wheat depend entirely on the form in which you eat it.
Whole-wheat flour is produced by grinding of whole kernels (All parts). Production of white flour requires removal of the bran and germ. This type of flour contains less minerals, vitamins and fibers compared to the whole-wheat flour.
More types of foods are made with wheat than with any other cereal grain.
Consumed worldwide by billions of people, wheat is a significant food for human nutrition, particularly in the least developed countries where wheat products are primary foods.
In genetically susceptible people, gluten – a major part of wheat protein – can trigger coeliac disease. Coeliac disease affects about 1% of the general population in developed countries. While
coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, it is not the same as a wheat allergy.
Wheat is produced in almost every state in the United States, and is the principal cereal grain grown in the country.
In fact, on average, Kansas is the largest wheat producing state in the US. Nearly 20% of all the wheat produced in the United States is grown in Kansas. This is why Kansas is called the Wheat State or the Breadbasket of the World.
Wheat is the third-largest field crop produced in the United States following corn and soybeans.
Wheat was first planted in the United States in 1777 as a hobby crop.