In this article we will discuss about:- 1. History of Wheat 2. Cultivation, Harvesting and Threshing of Wheat 3. Milling 4. Uses.
History of Wheat:
According to M.A. de Candolle, the cultivation of wheat is prehistoric in Old World. Very ancient Egyptian monuments show the establishment of this cultivation. However, when Egyptians or Greeks speak of its origin, they attribute it to mythical personages—Isis, Ceres, Triptolemus, etc.
A small-grained wheat has been found at the earliest lake dwellings of Western Switzerland, the inhabitants of which were at least contemporary with the Trojan war, and perhaps earlier.
The same form of wheat, i.e., Triticum vulgare antiquorum Heer, was found by linger in a brick of the pyramid of Dashur in Egypt, to which he assigns a date of 3359 B.C. Another small-grained wheat, T. vulgare compactum muticum Heer, was less common in Switzerland in the earliest stone age, while a third intermediate form was cultivated in Hungary at the same period.
However, De Candolle believes that the wheat cultivation in the temperate parts of Europe, Asia and Africa is probably older than the most ancient known languages. The Chinese certainly grew it in 2700 B.C., and considered it a gift direct from heaven. In the annual ceremony of sowing five kinds of seeds, instituted by the Emperor Shen-nung or Chin-nung, wheat was one of the species employed.
De Candolle has written in his famous work the Origin of Cultivated Plants that the original home of wheat in very early prehistoric times was in Mesopotamia. According to Berosus, the earliest of all Western Historians, and a Chaldean priest who wrote some twenty-three centuries ago, it occurred wild there. According to Strabo, who was born 50 B.C., a grain very similar to wheat grew wild upon the banks of the Indus.
According to De Candolle there is strong evidence in favour of India being the home of some of the forms of wheat as can be shown for any other part of the globe. India possesses perhaps as comprehensive a series of time honoured forms of wheat as can be shown for any other country.
India has its hard wheats and soft wheats ; its starch wheats and speltwheats ; its bearded and beardless wheats. It has been established that most of these have been grown for countless ages on the same fields as they are to be found at the present day.
It has also been proved that wheat cultivation in India is as ancient as in Europe or any other part of the world. The wheat grains discovered as a result of Indus valley excavations at Mohenjo-Daro indicate that north-western India was one of the ancestral lands of this cereal.
The carbonized grains resemble those of Triticum sphaerococcum Percival, an endemic species which is still found in a few places in India.
According to Vavilov, the wheats have had a multiple origin, the soft wheats have come from the mountains of Afghanistan and the southwestern Himalayas ; the durum wheats from Abyssinia, Algeria and Greece; and einkorn from Asia Minor. The archaeological evidences establish that the wheat has been cultivated for at least 6000 years.
However, it must be kept in mind, while discussing the question of the origin of this ancient, cultivated cereal, that it is very nearly impossible, whatever the original home of wheat may have been, to determine with accuracy the character of the first parent from which it was derived.
India accounts for about 3.5 per cent of the global wheat production. The area under wheat constitutes roughly 14.0 per cent of the total area under cereals, and 10.0 per cent of the total area under food grains in the country. The crop is grown mainly in the northern and central parts. It is not much significance in the south.
It is cultivated as a food crop mainly in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Rajasthan.
Wheat is the second staple food crop of India and occupies about 29 million acres of land. It is consumed mainly by the people in the north. The wheat grains discovered as a result of Indus Valley excavations at Mohenjo-Daro indicate that north-western India was one of the ancestral lands of this cereal.
The carbonised grains resemble those of Triticum sphaerococcum Percival an endemic species which is still found in a few places in India. The wheat growing area in India can be divided into three zones—the Gangetic alluvium, the Indus valley, and the black soil tract of Peninsular India. Wheat is also cultivated in Gujarat.
A special feature of Indian wheat is the relatively short season in which it completes its life cycle. While the crop stands in the field for 9 to 10 months in some western countries, in India it is ready for harvest in four to six months after sowing. However, in the hilly tracts of Northern India the growing season for wheat is about nine months but the area under the crop in this region is very small.
Of the 18 recognized species under the genus Triticum, five are cultivated in India. Of these Triticum aestivum Linn., commonly known as bread wheat, occupies the largest area and is mainly grown in the northern regions. Next in importance is the macaroni wheat, T durum Desf., which is the predominant species in Central and Western India.
The area under T. dicoccum Schrank is grown in South India. T. turgidum Linn., the rivet wheat, and T. sphaerococcum Percival, the dwarf wheat are even less important.
Wheat was the first crop to attract the attention of Indian breeders. The main object was to evolve high-yielding varieties with good grain quality. A notable achievement of the last few years has been the evolution of a new series of improved wheats. Their special characters include adaptability to certain regions, high yield, good grain quality, tolerance to rusts, and resistance to loose smut.
Cultivation, Harvesting and Threshing of Wheat:
In northern India sowing of wheat is done in October-November. Wheat may be sown broadcast, either by hand or by sowing machines. Germination begins immediately and the first leaves appear within a fortnight. Wheat is properly manured and inigated.
The crop is harvested by cutting the plants with a sickle close to the ground, m March-April. Threshing is the next process, and this involves the separation of the grain from the spike. Threshing is generally done under the feet of bullocks or by threshing machines.
After threshing the wheat is winnowed and sifted. In the Punjab, recently the combines are introduced for the purpose. The combines reap, clean, thresh, winnow and sift the grains; wheat must be stored in firmly built structures, and it must be well ventilated.
Milling of Wheat:
In India in most of the motor driven flour mills there remains a fixed lower stone upon which a movable upper one revolves. The grains are dropped in the openings in the upper stone and gradually worked out between the stones which possess grinding surfaces cut in radiating lines. In this process whole grain is used.
The roller process of milling is an advanced and perfect process. The first step in this process comprises cleaning and scouring. After making the grains clean they are thoroughly washed and scoured. The next step is tempering.
In this process a little water is added, which toughens the bran and prevents its breaking up, so that it will flake out all in one piece. In the last the conditioned and tempered wheat is submitted to breaking, grinding and rolling.
The grain is first cracked or crushed gradually through a series of four to six pairs of chilled iron break rolls. The surface of the break rolls is made rough by sharp lengthwise folding. The break flour is separated out by sieves, while the main portion goes to the second break.
This process is repeated until five sets of rollers have been utilised. All bran is removed during this process and the purified material is passed to smooth rollers for final granulation. The final product is the flour.
Uses of Wheat:
There are three main kinds of flour—maida, and ata which are used for various purposes. The flour is used chiefly for making ‘bread’ and ‘chapatis’. The flour is also used for making biscuits, cakes, pastry and similar articles. Wheat flakes are used as breakfast food.
Wheat is also used in the manufacture of beer and other alcoholic beverages. Wheat straw is used for seating chairs, stuffing mattresses, etc. It makes a good food for livestock. Wheat straw is also used as fodder.
This makes a staple food in most parts of the world. Properties of gluten in the grains are such that It produces bread-stuffs generally superior to those from any other cereal grains By products of wheat milling, such as bran, germ and middling’s constitute valuable feed for stock readily eaten; supplementary feeds are provided to supply protein and minerals in which the straw is deficient.
The straw is used as bedding for cattle; it is also used for padding, as in mattresses tor packing fragile goods, for thatching and many other purposes. It may be used also for production of furfuryl alcohol. Straw-pulp is utilized for the manufacture of paper, straw-board and building-beard.
Non-feed industrial uses of wheat include the manufacture of starch, industrial alcohol, malted wheat, and core-binder flour; only small quantities of wheat are used for starch and gluten manufacture. Gram is regarded as a stand-by for alcohol production. Low-grade flours are utilized in the preparation of pastes for wall papering and ply-wood adhesives, and in iron foundries as a core binder.
Wheat products include peeled wheat; Bulgur, a parboiled wheat product; World wheat similar to Bulgur, but of lighter colour; Instant or agglomerated flour; Farina or semolina-. Wheat flakes- Shredded wheat; Puffed wheat; Grape-nuts, prepared from toasted slices of malted bread; Gluten, used in special breads; and wheat germ, rich in vitamin E.