Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hard White Wheat Gains Market Foothold

Harvest Public Media via Big Picture Agriculture's new sister site, Sowing Agricultural Seeds Daily:
A new wheat variety may have cracked the code to marry the fluffiness of white bread with whole grain nutrition.
For a long time, American bread makers have been in a bind. Many consumers like the texture and taste of white bread, but want the nutritional benefits of whole grains.
Snowmass, named for a Colorado peak, is a hard white wheat variety, a crop in high demand as bread makers increasingly seek new markets -- in this case health-conscious consumers who don’t want to give up white bread. Hard white wheats lack the dark bran color and potent flavor of their red wheat cousins, which are grown widely across the Great Plains.
Farmers and food companies have been interested in hard white wheat for a while, but economic and climatological realities have kept it from taking off. Hard red winter wheat grows well in wheat states like Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. But it doesn’t mill into white flour, it has to be bleached. By itself, the dark, flavorful bran it can be a tougher sell to more finicky consumers who prefer white bread.
Wheat breeding programs, both public and private, have been hard at work trying to come up with a variety like Snowmass -- a type of white wheat that yields well, mills into a white flour and mixes easily into dough.
Colorado State University wheat breeder Scott Haley finally had success. He’s the father of Snowmass. When you come up with a well-performing, novel crop, there’s a whole community of people who consider you a rock star.
“Well, I’ve been told that this is the most famous wheat in the world, which is just like, oh my gosh. I don’t believe that,” Haley said.
The foundation that funds some of Haley’s research receives money from food giant ConAgra to develop wheat varieties for commercial use. The exact amount is part of a confidentiality agreement among Colorado State University, ConAgra and the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation. ConAgra has been after healthier white flour, which its customers, like Sara Lee and Azteca, can then turn into whole grain white products like breads and tortillas.
Sowing Agricultural Seeds Daily looks like it will be a must-visit site.

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