Wheat quality was the topic of summit
One common thread throughout a recent summit attended by millers, growers and wheat industry stakeholders was that few people share the same definition for quality. Different uses for wheat lead to different expectations and measurements for quality.
“There are so many subtleties,” said Rollie Sears, senior research fellow for Syngenta. “One mill and one baker might think a line is really, really good while another mill or baker might think it’s not very good at all.”
That’s why Syngenta operates a wheat quality lab that pinpoints and tests the end-use quality traits of each wheat line being developed by the company. Located in Berthoud, Colo., the lab runs more than 32,000 tests a year that considers factors such as protein level, kernel weight, hardness and water absorption. Using flour milled on site from each wheat line, a baking lab gauges the texture, color, volume and other characteristics of bread and cookies.
In 2012 alone, the lab tested more than 8,000 lines of wheat.
“These quality tests – conducted at various stages in the breeding process—help determine whether a wheat line shows end-use potential and should continue on down the breeding path,” said Cathy Butti, Syngenta wheat quality lab manager. “This is so important for a breeding company, as it can be very difficult to know what to throw out or keep because of the wide range of varieties and needs.”
To rewrite an old phrase: Quality is in the eye of the beholder. This was apparent during the Syngenta Wheat Quality Summit in Colorado, where the company discussed this elusive characteristic with several dozen millers, growers and industry stakeholders.
Syngenta sought to better understand what millers need, as well as share information about the company’s breeding capabilities and grower needs.
“Protein, quality, yield, sustainability, disease management, strength – these are just a few of the many factors at play when breeding new wheat varieties,” said Sears. “Considering it can take more than a decade from first cross to commercialization, it is extremely important that the wheat being developed is the wheat that the industry desires.”
Yield and quality
Sears said Syngenta takes a “YQ” approach toward breeding—viewing yield potential and quality as equally important to address needs of both growers and millers.
Chris Tallman, a Colorado grower and former president of the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, shed light on grower needs.