Total World







Source: USDA-NASS Agricultural Statistics 1998. Data for sorghum were not available.

Source: USDA-NASS Agricultural Statistics 1998. Data for sorghum were not available.

are called soft, and the term hard is reserved for the very hard durum wheats. In the United States the term hard is used for bread wheats; soft is reserved for wheats used to produce cookies, cakes, and so on; and durum for those tetraploid wheats used to produce alimentary pastes.

4. Geographic region of growth.

5. End use properties: protein content, physical dough properties, bread-making quality.

6. Variety.

7. Composite designations (14-17). Corn

Corn (called maize in much of the world) is now the most popular grain for use as animal feed in temperate regions. In many tropical areas, it is a basic human food. There are five major types of corn: flint, dent, floury, pop, and sweet. Dent varieties, grown most widely in the United States, provide high yields and are used to a large extent as feed grain. Flint corn, with a somewhat higher food value, is common in Europe and South America. It is valued for its physical properties and as a raw material in the production of certain Central American foods (tortilla and arepa). Pop, sweet, and floury corn are relatively minor food crops (18-21).

In corn, the starch contains about 25% amylose and 75% amylopectin. Mutants of corn are grown in which the starch is almost entirely amylopectin (called waxy) or 70 to 80% amylose (amylomaize types). These starches vary widely in their physical properties (gelatinization characteristics, water-binding capacity, gel properties, etc) and usefulness in various foods and industrial applications.

Maize is generally deficient in the basic amino acids. However, high-lysine and high-lysine-tryptophan genetic mutants have improved the nutritional properties of corn and are now available as dent or flint corn. In the future those mutants are likely to be acceptable for the production of maize-based foods.

The United States accounts for more than half of the total world corn production and about 80% of the annual world corn exports. In the United States, most corn is used as feed or seed or in the production of alcoholic beverages. Only about 10% is used as food. This includes the production of starch, corn syrups, breakfast cereals, and various foods. Livestock feed accounts for almost 85% of the total U.S. domestic use. The main importers of U.S. corn are Western Europe and Japan, primarily for livestock feed.


Rice is the staple food of about half of the human race, providing more than one-fifth of the total food calories consumed by the people of the world. Most rice is produced in the Far East and is primarily consumed within the borders of the country of origin. Asia, which has nearly 60% of the world population, produces and consumes about 90% of the world rice production. The United States produces less than 2% of the world crop, but accounts for about 30% of the world rice trade (22,23).

Rice varieties vary in their kernel shape and properties. They are classified as long, medium, and short grain. Long-grain rice accounts for about 50%, medium-grain rice for 40%, and short-grain rice for about 10% of the U.S. rice production. California is practically the exclusive producer of short-grain rice. California and Louisiana lead in medium-grain rice production. Growers in Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi produce mostly long-grain rice.


Barley is a winter-hardy and drought-resistant grain. It matures more rapidly than do wheat, oats, or rye and is used mainly as feed for livestock and in malting and distilling industries. The two main types of barley, two-row and six-row, differ in the arrangement of grains in the ear. The former predominates in Europe and parts of Australia; the latter is more resistant to extreme temperatures and is grown in North America, India, and the Middle East (24,25).

Although barley is grown throughout the world, production is concentrated in the northern latitudes. Since 1950 the world production of barley tripled with most of its increase in Europe. The former USSR is the largest barley producer. Barley is adaptable to a variety of conditions and is produced commercially in 36 states in the United States. In the United States, the use of barley as a livestock feed is declining, while the use for processing into malt is increasing.


Oats are grown most successfully in cool, humid climates and on neutral to slightly acidic soil. The bulk of the crop is consumed as animal feed (primarily for horses). A covered cereal, the oat hull must first be removed before further processing. The resulting product is called a groat. Heavy oats (with high groat to hull ratios) are processed into rolled oats, breakfast foods, and oatmeal (26).

The world production of oats is about one-tenth of the world production of wheat and slightly over one-fourth of the world production of barley. The chief oat-producing states in the United States are in the north-central Corn Belt and farther northward. About 90% of the oat is left on the farm as a feed, and only a small proportion is processed as food or used for industrial products. The use of oats in food processing is increasing, especially in breakfast cereals.


Sorghum is the fifth most widely grown grain in the world. However, sorghum production is less than 5% of the total grain production. There has been a small increase in the area planted and harvested with sorghum, but the increase in production has been substantial because of increases in yield. This has resulted from the development of high-yielding hybrids. The primary sorghum-producing regions are Asia, Africa, and North America. The primary sorghum-producing countries are the United States, China, India, Argentina, Nigeria, and Mexico. These countries produce more than 75% of the world total, with the United States producing about 30%.

More than 50% of the worldwide production of sorghum is destined for human consumption. However, in the United States, sorghum is grown almost entirely as a feed grain for local use or for export. Sorghum is produced under a wide range of climatic conditions. It tolerates limited moisture conditions and adapts to high temperature conditions (27,28).

The nucellar tissue of some varieties of sorghum contains pigments that complicate production of acceptable and white sorghum starch. Varieties with no nucellar tissue persisting to maturity could be used for starch production, but the ready availability of corn and other problems with the wet-milling of sorghum has discouraged such attempts. Waxy (starch) sorghums are potentially promising for special food uses. Some sorghums are rich in condensed tannins. This reduces both their palatability and feed value.

Rye is characterized by its good resistance to cold, pests, and diseases, but it cannot compete with wheat or barley on good soils and under improved cultivation practices. Approximately 90% of the world's rye production is in Europe (mainly in Poland and Germany) and in the former USSR. Rye is considered a grain for use in bread in Europe, but its proportion in mixed wheat-rye bread is decreasing. Much of the rye is used as a feed grain and a small proportion in the distilling industry (29).

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