Cereals Science And Technology

Cereal grains supply the most calories per acre than do other food sources, can be stored safely for a long time, and can be processed into many acceptable products. They are adapted to a variety of soil and climatic conditions, and can be cultivated both on a large scale mechanically with a small amount of labor, and on a garden scale almost entirely by human labor. They are excellent sources of energy and relatively good sources of inexpensive protein, certain minerals, and vitamins. More than two-thirds of the world's cultivated area is planted with grain crops. Most developing countries rely on cereals as food sources. Cereals provide more than half of the calories consumed for human energy, and in many developing countries they provide more than two-thirds of the total diet. As feeds, cereals also contribute greatly to the production of animal proteins (1-9). Total world production of cereal grains (except for sorghum where data were not available) and their production in various parts of the world are shown in Table 1.

GRAINS Wheat

Wheat grows on almost every kind of arable land, from sea level to elevations of 3000 m, in regions where water is sufficient or areas that are relatively arid; it also thrives in well-drained loams and clays. Wheat is a basic food throughout the world. In developing countries, wheat consumption is increasing and generally accompanies rising living standards. The increase in wheat consumption comes at the expense of the more costly rice or the less costly barley or sorghum. Wheat is the most widely cultivated grain crop in temperate areas. Winter wheat may be multicropped prior to soybeans while spring wheat is often grown in rotation with barley and oats to reduce loss of soil fertility (5,10-13).

Wheat provides about one-fifth of all calories consumed by humans. It accounts for nearly 30% of worldwide grain production and for over 50% of the world trade in grains. It is harvested somewhere in the world nearly every month of the year. The United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, and France are the main wheat exporters. Wheat production in North America and Western Europe has declined relative to that of the rest of the world since 1950. These two areas accounted for 41% of world production in 1950 but only 36% in 1951. Eastern Europe and Asia accounted for 48% of the total world production in 1950 and 56% in 1981.

The main wheat-producing areas in Asia are China, India, Turkey, and Pakistan. China produces more wheat than any other nation. In fact, wheat is second only to rice as a source of human food in China. Japan is a large wheat importer; Argentina and Australia are major wheat exporters. The United States is the fourth largest wheat-producing country behind China, the former USSR, and India.

Hexaploid wheats are the most widely grown around the world. They can be classified according to:

1. Growth habitat: spring wheats are sown in the spring and harvested in late summer. Winter wheats are sown in the fall and harvested early the next summer. For winter wheats to produce seed it must be vernalized (be subjected to freezing temperature for several days). Winter wheats are preferred by growers because of a generally higher yield potential.

2. Bran color: white (colorless), red, purple or black.

3. Kernel hardness: hard or soft; and vitreousness: glassy-vitreous or mealy-starchy-floury. In many parts of the world all bread wheats (hard and soft)

Table 1. Production of Cereal Grains, in 10s Metric Tons, During 1996-1997 in Various Production Areas

Production area

Wheat

Rye

Rice

Corn

Oats

Barley

North America

95,367

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