U.S. wheat is known the world over not just for its reliability and quantity, but for its quality. Research into quality characteristics is vital to maintain the high standards U.S. wheat customers at home and abroad expect.

Four USDA regional wheat quality labs – in Pullman, Wash., Fargo, N.D., Manhattan, Kan. and Wooster, Ohio – are crucial in supporting wheat breeders with information and tools to enhance the value of the U.S. wheat crop.

An erosion of funding and staffing and antiquated equipment currently jeopardize research responsible for the processing and quality attributes of the 2.2 billion bushels of wheat produced in the U.S. each year. The world wheat market is increasingly sophisticated and requires higher grain, processing and product quality, nutrition and food safety. The USDA/Agricultural Research Service (ARS) wheat quality labs need the equipment and staff to meet those demands.

The labs are working to determine the biochemical, molecular and genetic properties responsible for end-use quality, functionality and nutritional composition. Specific genes and markers associated with superior wheat quality and end-use functionality have been identified, with more to follow. Test methods have been developed that will allow for more rapid screening of early generation experimental lines for milling and baking quality.

For example, to encourage more whole grain consumption, the Soft Wheat Quality lab confirmed that two inexpensive, readily available and relatively simple tests are reliable tools for early feedback on new varieties as future sources of whole-grain cookie flour.

In the food safety arena, the Western Wheat Quality lab is analyzing free asparagine content in wheat to better understand and create mitigation strategies related to the formation of acrylamide during bread baking.

Learn more about the labs at: