New wheat gene discovery will push up healthy flour yields

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01 Nov 2017 --- The discovery of genes that determine the yield of flour from wheat could increase milling yield, boosting food security and producing a healthier flour, according to the latest research coming out of Australia. University of Queensland researchers believe that the discovery could increase the amount of flour produced from wheat by as much as 10 percent.

As the leading temperate climate crop, wheat provides 20 percent of the total calories and proteins consumed worldwide. Wheat grain is milled, or crushed, to make flour for bread and other food products.

UQ Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation Director Professor Robert Henry said that his research team had pinpointed the genes that control a cell protein which acts like a glue, holding the wheat grain's endosperm, wheat germ and bran layers together.

“Wheats that produce less of this glue-like protein come apart more easily in the milling process,” he said.

“This increases the efficiency of processing and improves the nutritional profile of the flour as more of the outer parts of the endosperm – rich in vitamins and minerals – are incorporated into the flour. This applies not only to white flour but also to wholemeal flour.”

“Potentially we can take high-yielding field wheats that have not traditionally been considered suitable for milling and turn them into milling wheats.”

He adds how this will improve on-farm production and could reduce post-harvest wastage as well as a number of resources used to grow the wheat.

“By getting a few percent more flour from the 700 million tons of wheat produced globally each year, we will be producing significantly more food from the same amount of wheat,” he said.

Australian wheat traditionally attracts a high price in the market as it has a reputation of giving high flour yields.

“We haven't been able to genetically select for this trait at early stages of breeding before,” Professor Henry continues.

“The effect of this cell adhesion protein explains the difference between wheats that give us 70 percent flour when we mill it, to 80 percent, which is quite a big difference.”

Professor Henry said that this knowledge could be employed immediately in wheat breeding programs.

“It means that we can produce premium wheats more efficiently and push the yields of quality premium wheats up.”

The team is now looking at DNA testing to breed wheats based on this new molecular discovery. Their findings are published in Scientific Reports.

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