Wheat is a cereal (grass crop) that has many uses. There are different types of wheat for different purposes. Some wheat is ground into flour to make bread; this type of wheat (called prime hard wheat) has to have a high gluten content to provide the dough with elasticity and strength to stretch and rise during the proving stage of bread making. Biscuit wheat is generally lower in protein and is usually more crumbly in texture when cooked and are also called soft wheat. They don’t require as much moisture to make dough and spread sideways during the cooking process making them ideal for biscuits. Biscuit wheat are at times difficult to grow as all farmers would like high yields but to achieve a high yield with low protein requires careful nitrogen management, they also require unlimited moisture so are usually grown under irrigation
Durum wheat is a type of wheat specifically grown for the production of pasta, this type of wheat is yellow in colour has high gluten content and is strong and elastic. It is used to make couscous as well as pasta, and other products but is unsuitable for cakes and biscuits where a soft texture is required.
Noodle wheat are a hard wheat that need to be particularly white in colour for the Japanese Udon noodles but need to be yellow in colour for Chinese noodles, so often they are a blend of hard wheat that meet the colour and strength characteristics of the particular noodle they are used to produce. Purple wheat is used in whole grain bread. They can attract a premium price but are a niche market and must be handled carefully so as not to contaminate white wheat.
Feed wheat is wheat that is used for livestock food. They need to be high in protein, minerals and nutrients. They also need to be high in gluten which helps the pellets bind together in stock feed manufacture. Some wheat varieties are developed specifically as feed wheat while other bread wheat may end up sold as feed wheat as they don’t make the quality specifications at harvest (this could be due to weather damage or other factors).
Adequate nutrients at each stage of development are essential for maximum economic yields of wheat.
Nitrogen removal per bushel by wheat compared to corn and grain sorghum is slightly higher due to the higher protein content of wheat. Removal per bushel of other nutrients is very similar to corn and grain sorghum. In general, nitrogen, phosphorus, and zinc potassium are the primary nutrient needs. Climatic and cultural systems must be taken into account when developing a fertilisation program.
Wheat has a similar system of root development to other cereals. The temperate cereals possess two distinct root systems: the seminal roots which develop from primordia within the seed (called the primary roots); and the nodal or adventitious roots which develop from the nodes within the crown. These are called secondary roots and anchor the plant so in situations where you are grazing a cereal crop, you need to wait until the secondary root system has developed otherwise livestock will pull the plant out. Usually the secondary root system requires a fall of rain to stimulate their growth as they grow down from the crown on the soil surface, therefore the soil surface needs to be moist for that to occur. Under ideal conditions when there is no restriction to root growth, wheat roots can penetrate to a depth of about 3 metres, however, root density is low below 2 metres. Studies on uniform coarse, textured soils report the effective maximum depth of root growth to be 1.6 to 1.7m.
Wheat is grown successfully on a wide range of soils because it is comparatively tolerant of different conditions. Acid soils are unsuitable for some cultivars. Be aware of varietal differences in sensitivity to acid soils and boron toxicity. If yields are to approach their climate potential, then soil conditions need to be considered carefully. To grow high yielding crops the soil should be well to moderately well drained, have good physical characteristics and no barriers to root penetration, have no extremes of pH, be non-saline and have an adequate nutrient supply.
Wheat will vary in their tolerance to diseases. Some varieties are bred specifically for resistance to particular diseases.
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