Wheat research creating specialized wheat varieties for specific food items

by Jeff Gelski
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(from left) Chris Miller, Ph.D., director of wheat quality research for Heartland Plant Innovations; Jeff Koscelny, Ph.D., of Monsanto; and Theresa Cogswell, owner of BakerCogs, Inc.
(From left) Chris Miller, Ph.D., director of wheat quality research for Heartland Plant Innovations; Jeff Koscelny, Ph.D., of Monsanto; and Theresa Cogswell, owner of BakerCogs, Inc. discuss creating wheat varieties at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2016.

CHICAGO — Wheat research is evolving, still focusing on grower needs but now consumer wants as well.

Chris Miller, Ph.D., director of wheat quality research for Heartland Plant Innovations
Chris Miller, Ph.D., director of wheat quality research for Heartland Plant Innovations

“I see varieties developed for specific products,” said Chris Miller, Ph.D., director of wheat quality research for Heartland Plant Innovations, Manhattan, Kas. “There’s going to be a wheat variety for an Oreo cookie.”

Research could focus on developing varieties for human health and nutrition, such as varieties with resistant starch, he said Feb. 29 in a presentation at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2016 in Chicago. Developers of wheat varieties could take into account how a variety affects a food product’s flavor, texture and appearance, he said.

“These things are all possible today,” he said. “They were not in the past.”

Dr. Miller spoke on conventional breeding techniques, such as advancements in doubled haploids that speed up research on wheat varieties.

Jeff Koscelny, Ph.D., of St. Louis-based Monsanto, spoke about his company’s progress in wheat research. Monsanto is evaluating two types of wheat varieties tolerant to herbicide.

He said the industry missed an opportunity to educate consumers when bioengineered/genetically modified corn and soybeans came onto the market in the 1990s. No bioengineered wheat is allowed in the United States. If it ever is, wheat researchers should take into account consumer benefits.

Jeff Koscelny, Ph.D., of Monsanto

Jeff Koscelny, Ph.D., of Monsanto

“How do we educate (consumers), and how do we bring consumer benefits?” Dr. Koscelny said.

Conventional breeding efforts are trying to develop wheat varieties that do not trigger reactions in people with celiac disease. Biotechnology might speed up the research.

Globally, yield and volume of wheat will need to improve, too.

“We’re going to need about another 2 billion bushels of wheat by 2024 versus where we are today,” Dr. Koscelny said.

Theresa Cogswell, moderator of the session and owner of Kansas City-based BakerCogs, Inc., said the global population, over 7 billion now, is forecast to be over 9 billion by 2050.

“Without G.M.O., if we go back to the way we farmed 20-plus years ago, it’s going to be really difficult,” Dr. Koscelny said.
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