Click image for caption and other photo
story to find out more.
New Subclass of Soft Wheat for Everything from Crackers to Flat-Bread
By Don Comis
March 22, 2002
Because of interest in releasing a new
subclass of soft wheats with enhanced dough mixing strength for crackers,
Agricultural Research Service scientists are now using a new industry test to
screen for soft but strong wheat varieties.
Nabisco, Inc., created the test recently by adapting an old but innovative
Many cracker-makers have to add hard wheat flour to their soft wheat flour
to raise the dough mixing strength that gives crackers their structure. The
industry would prefer to use 100 percent soft wheat flour, partly to save
costs. But soft wheat cant be counted on for mixing strength, a quality
believed to be only in hard wheat.
In the 1940s, Karl F. Finney, a chemist at the ARS Soft Wheat Quality
Research Unit in Wooster, Ohio, developed a quick lactic acid test
to screen breeders samples for mixing strength. It centrifuged flour in a
5-percent lactic acid/water solution. The strongest flours weigh the most
because they absorb the most acid/water solution.
Recently, Louise Slade and Harry Levine, both food polymer scientists at
Nabisco, Inc., created a new test based on Finneys and used it to find a
soft but strong winter wheat variety. They use the test to search for more
varieties and--together with companion tests--to systematically evaluate
potential baking quality. Each year, the Wooster researchers receive about
6,000 samples of new soft wheat lines that are in early stages of development.
The U.S. bread industry uses hard wheat. But if the new soft wheat subclass
comes into being, it could change that by competing for some of the bread
market, particularly for the flat-bread market, including tortillas and pocket
More information can be found in the
March 2002 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.