By Don Comis
April 9, 2003
Tradition is very dear to the
Agricultural Research Services
Soft Wheat Quality Research
Unit at Wooster, Ohio, as it is to millers and bakers. Patrick L. Finney
and Charles S. Gaines are food technologists at the Wooster unit, but they also
consider themselves millers and bakers at heart. They are committed to finding
new wheats to satisfy customers who love soft wheat in their
pastries, cookies, crackers and flat breads.
Today, Finney and Gaines meet with fellow researchers, chemists, millers and
bakers-- from as many as 39 private and university labs, from Michigan to
Georgia--many of whom belong to the American
Association of Cereal Chemists
Section. The Section and ARS jointly
sponsored todays 50th annual research review conference at Wooster. The
conference is the main way the Wooster unit interacts with the milling and
Finney, who teaches breadmaking, has a tradition of his own. His father,
Karl, was a chemist with the Wooster unit when it first opened its doors in
1937. Recently, Louise Slade and Harry Levine, food polymer scientists at
Nabisco and conference attendees,
adapted a test developed by the elder Finney to screen for a new subclass of
soft wheat that can make better crackers and flat breads.
The research unit has added this test for screening about 6,000 samples of
new soft wheat lines a year. Todays conference is a mark of the close
cooperation with industry that started the year the lab opened. A series of
annual conferences has continued in the current format since 1953.
To maintain the highest standards for soft wheat-screening lab tests, the
Cincinnati Section has held a prestigious annual testing program, since 1985.
The soft wheat unit will receive the Best Overall award tonight, as
it did in 1989, 1999, 2000 and 2001. The unit won in other categories in 1993
The scientists bake cookies, along with performing various other laboratory
quality tests. The ultimate test of wheat softness is how big a cookie spreads
on the baking sheet.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.