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Scientists Seeking Hard White Wheats for Soft Asian Noodles

By Dawn Lyons Johnson
April 21, 1997

Asian consumers favor bright yellow noodles with a soft and chewy texture. At the same time, American wheat growers are hungering for new market opportunities. Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are developing new hard white winter wheat varieties that could fill both demands by capturing the best qualities for oriental noodles.

Most American wheat varieties were developed for making bread, a product that emphasizes different characteristics than noodles. As the researchers modify hard white winter wheat varieties, they’re aiming for lines with less amylose, a component of starch. Reduced amylose would improve the “mouth feel” of noodles making them more acceptable to consumers. And there’s another plus: When amylose levels go down, shelf life of bread and baked goods made from that wheat may go up.

Genetic research conducted in Japan has determined the location of the three genes responsible for amylose production in wheat. ARS scientists plan to use that information to produce new wheat cultivars with the traits most desired by processors and consumers. The scientists say eliminating two of the three genes behind amylose production will lower the wheat’s amylose content by one-third. Turning off those genes altogether would produce wheats with the kind of starch content, mouth-feel and color desired by Asian consumers.

Hard white winter wheat is already a hit with American consumers, thanks to its starring role in low-cholesterol whole wheat breads. Bread made from hard white wheat has a lighter color and a sweeter taste. That’s because white wheat’s outer kernel contains fewer tannins and phenolic compounds that give red wheat products a stronger flavor.

U.S. production of hard white wheat is currently very limited. Nearly all of the crop is used domestically in specialty-market breads.

A story about the research appears in the March 1997 issue of Agricultural Research, ARS’ monthly publication. The magazine also is on the World Wide Web at:


Scientific contacts: At ARS Wheat, Sorghum and Forage Unit, Lincoln, Neb.: C. James Peterson (phone 402-472-4020, e-mail and Bob Graybosch (phone 402-472-1563, e- mail, fax 402-472-4020. At ARS’ Wheat Genetics Quality Laboratory, Pullman, Wash.: Craig F. Morris, phone 509-335-4055, fax 509-335-8573, e-mail