Cereals 2010: White wheat sprouting breakthrough

Progress is being made by researchers trying to solve the pre-harvesting sprouting problems holding back wider planting of white wheats.

Bread made from white wheat would produce a ‘golden’ wholemeal loaf that tasted like white bread, Alison Huttley of Rothamsted Research said.

That was important because surveys found that consumers didn’t eat wholemeal bread because of its bitter, stringent taste. “The bitter taste is caused by proanthocyanidins in red wheat, but white grain wheats lack the ability to produce them.”

But growing white wheats reliably had proved difficult because there was a strong genetic link with pre-harvest sprouting, she said.

A DEFRA-funded HGCA LINK project had found some genes that conferred sprouting resistance. “So we’re looking at seeing whether we can introduce them into a white background.”

In principle, if the link with sprouting could be broken, there was no reason why white wheats couldn’t be bred for all wheat classes, colleague Andy Phillips added.

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