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Breakfast sandwiches, pasta dishes or Danish pastries. Wheat is used in many of the food products that are eaten in Sweden almost every day.
Wheat grains are recognised by their pale brown colour and plump shape without shoots.
Wheat is the cereal we cultivate most in the world, including in Sweden. Around 15 percent of Swedish farmland is used to grow wheat today.
Wheat grains are then milled into flour that is used as an ingredient for products such as delicious pastries, crispy buns and home made pancakes. Flour contains gluten, a protein that creates networks and helps hold the dough together and gives the bread volume.
The cultivation of wheat began around 12,000 years ago in the Middle East in the area that was known as the fertile crescent, and which is now very largely part of Iraq. It is also the cereal that has undergone the most change.
The first types of wheat that began being cultivated were einkorn (single grain) wheat and Emmer wheat, that emerged via a spontaneous crossing of single grain wheat and a wild grass. Single grain is still cultivated in its area of origin, in what is now south east Turkey.
Not much wheat was cultivated in the Nordic region initially, as this required a specific type of soil and plant nutrition. The first written sources on the extent of wheat cultivation in Sweden date from the 16th Century and concerned wheat harvests that made up less than one percent of the total grain harvest.
In addition to producing fine bread, cakes and pastries, white flour also offers several health benefits, especially whole grain wheat. Eating whole grain gives us nutrients and other wholesome benefits from all parts of the grain.
Studies show that whole grain products, combined with a healthy lifestyle in general, can reduce the risk of heart diseases. Whole grain is also included in the Swedish Keyhole Symbol that specifies requirements for a certain whole grain content in food products.
Wheat genetics is more complicated than that of most other domesticated species. Some wheat species are diploid, with two sets of chromosomes, but many are stable polyploids, with four sets of chromosomes (tetraploid) or six (hexaploid).
Einkorn wheat (T. monococcum) is diploid (AA, two complements of seven chromosomes, 2n=14). Most tetraploid wheats (e.g. emmer and durum wheat) are derived from wild emmer, T. dicoccoides. Wild emmer is itself the result of a hybridization between two diploid wild grasses, T. urartu and a wild goatgrass such as Aegilops searsii or Ae. speltoides. The unknown grass has never been identified among now surviving wild grasses, but the closest living relative is Aegilops speltoides. The hybridization that formed wild emmer (AABB) occurred in the wild, long before domestication,and was driven by natural selection. Hexaploid wheats evolved in farmers' fields. Either domesticated emmer or durum wheat hybridized with yet another wild diploid grass (Aegilops tauschii) to make the hexaploid wheats, spelt wheat and bread wheat. These have three sets of paired chromosomes, three times as many as in diploid wheat.
The presence of certain versions of wheat genes has been important for crop yields. Apart from mutant versions of genes selected in antiquity during domestication, there has been more recent deliberate selection of alleles that affect growth characteristics. Genes for the 'dwarfing' trait, first used by Japanese wheat breeders to produce short-stalked wheat, have had a huge effect on wheat yields worldwide, and were major factors in the success of the Green Revolution in Mexico and Asia, an initiative led by Norman Borlaug. Dwarfing genes enable the carbon that is fixed in the plant during photosynthesis to be diverted towards seed production, and they also help prevent the problem of lodging. 'Lodging' occurs when an ear stalk falls over in the wind and rots on the ground, and heavy nitrogenous fertilization of wheat makes the grass grow taller and become more susceptible to this problem. By 1997, 81% of the developing world's wheat area was planted to semi-dwarf wheats, giving both increased yields and better response to nitrogenous fertilizer.
Wild grasses in the genus Triticum and related genera, and grasses such as rye have been a source of many disease-resistance traits for cultivated wheat breeding since the 1930s.
Heterosis, or hybrid vigor (as in the familiar F1 hybrids of maize), occurs in common (hexaploid) wheat, but it is difficult to produce seed of hybrid cultivars on a commercial scale (as is done with maize) because wheat flowers are perfect and normally self-pollinate. Commercial hybrid wheat seed has been produced using chemical hybridizing agents; these chemicals selectively interfere with pollen development, or naturally occurring cytoplasmic male sterility systems. Hybrid wheat has been a limited commercial success in Europe (particularly France), the United States and South Africa. F1 hybrid wheat cultivars should not be confused with the standard method of breeding inbred wheat cultivars by crossing two lines using hand emasculation, then selfing or inbreeding the progeny many (ten or more) generations before release selections are identified to be released as a variety or cultivar.
Synthetic hexaploids made by crossing the wild goatgrass wheat ancestor Aegilops tauschii and various durum wheats are now being deployed, and these increase the genetic diversity of cultivated wheats.
Stomata (or leaf pores) are involved in both uptake of carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere and water vapor losses from the leaf due to water transpiration. Basic physiological investigation of these gas exchange processes has yielded valuable carbon isotope based methods that are used for breeding wheat varieties with improved water-use efficiency. These varieties can improve crop productivity in rain-fed dry-land wheat farms.
In 2010, a team of UK scientists funded by BBSRC announced they had decoded the wheat genome for the first time (95% of the genome of a variety of wheat known as Chinese Spring line 42).This genome was released in a basic format for scientists and plant breeders to use but was not a fully annotated sequence which was reported in some of the media.
On 29 November 2012, an essentially complete gene set of bread wheat was published. Random shotgun libraries of total DNA and cDNA from the T. aestivum cv. Chinese Spring (CS42) were sequenced in Roche 454 pyrosequencer using GS FLX Titanium and GS FLX+ platforms to generate 85 Gb of sequence (220 million reads), equivalent to 5X genome coverage and identified between 94,000 and 96,000 genes.
This sequence data provides direct access to about 96,000 genes, relying on orthologous gene sets from other cereals. and represents an essential step towards a systematic understanding of biology and engineering the cereal crop for valuable traits. Its implications in cereal genetics and breeding includes the examination of genome variation, association mapping using natural populations, performing wide crosses and alien introgression, studying the expression and nucleotide polymorphism in transcriptomes, analyzing population genetics and evolutionary biology, and studying the epigenetic modifications. Moreover, the availability of large-scale genetic markers generated through NGS technology will facilitate trait mapping and make marker-assisted breeding much feasible.
Moreover, the data not only facilitate in deciphering the complex phenomena such as heterosis and epigenetics, it may also enable breeders to predict which fragment of a chromosome is derived from which parent in the progeny line, thereby recognizing crossover events occurring in every progeny line and inserting markers on genetic and physical maps without ambiguity. In due course, this will assist in introducing specific chromosomal segments from one cultivar to another. Besides, the researchers had identified diverse classes of genes participating in energy production, metabolism and growth that were probably linked with crop yield, which can now be utilized for the development of transgenic wheat. Thus whole genome sequence of wheat and the availability of thousands of SNPs will inevitably permit the breeders to stride towards identifying novel traits, providing biological knowledge and empowering biodiversity-based breeding.