Australian farmers can look forward to growing a boutique, high-yield wheat that is adapted to local conditions – and among the best in the world for making bread.

Scientists at UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) have identified a hereditary component in wheat that is essential for anyone hoping to consistently make premium-quality bread.

QAAFI Director and plant geneticist Professor Robert Henry said a Trailblazer award from The University of Queensland’s commercialization arm, UniQuest, had allowed his research team to identify the elusive bread-quality gene.

Queensland grain growers have for many years produced wheat varieties classified as ‘prime hard wheat’ because these were suited to the production of good-quality bread.

“The precise reason for the difference in the quality of the ‘prime hard wheat’ has long been a mystery,” Professor Henry said.

Wheat is one of the most important cereal crops in the world, with global production of about 650 million tons and consumption in a variety of breads across different countries and cultures.

“Growing global demand for wheat requires ongoing genetic improvement to adapt to changing environmental conditions,” Professor Henry said.

“However new wheat varieties must retain the essential quality characteristics of wheat.

“Wheat varieties are normally assessed for bread-making quality by conducting a baking test.

“This is only possible late in the breeding process because of the need for relatively large quantities of seed to mill and bake.”

Now that his team has identified the wheat gene responsible for quality bread, Professor Henry and his colleagues are eager to produce new premium wheat varieties.

“The good news is that premium wheats attract better prices so this discovery potentially means more dollars for Australian farmers.”

QAAFI scientists expect to exploit the bread-quality gene by developing improved wheat varieties using speed-breeding technologies that allow multiple generations of different varieties to be grown quickly and cheaply.

“We’ve already established the potential of this discovery so our next step will be to develop new varieties that offer high yield, as well as disease/drought resistance – that also include the bread-quality gene,” he said.

“Using the speed-breeding technology developed by QAAFI’s Dr Lee Hickey, we expect to establish experimental plots of the new bread-quality wheat in one or two years.”

Material provided by The University of Queensland

Image Above Credit: Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)