Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Manhattan, Kansas » Center for Grain and Animal Health Research » Grain Quality and Structure Research » Research » Research Project #428979

Research Project: Impact of Environmental Variation on Genetic Expression (phenotype) of Hard Winter Wheat Quality Traits

Location: Grain Quality and Structure Research

2020 Annual Report

Objective 1: Integration of experimental hard winter wheat germplasm, containing variability in starch and protein quality, into commercial usage across a range of production and meteorological climates. [C1; PS 1.A] Sub-objective 1A: Correlate starch and protein physiochemical changes with environmental variability for key hard winter wheat cultivars. Sub-objective 1B: Correlate the falling number test to the glucose meter for the detection of sprout damage in wheat. Objective 2: Congressionally directed mission of service, and non-hypothesis driven, the USDA-ARS Hard Winter Wheat Quality Laboratory will identify, evaluate, and screen the intrinsic end-use quality of hard winter wheat progenies in the Great Plains growing region to enhance cultivar development. [C1; PS 1.A] Sub-objective 2A: Evaluate and screen the quality attributes of hard winter wheat experimental breeding lines and improve quality of existing hard winter wheat cultivars for end-product quality of world’s wheat-based staples, such as bread (whole wheat), tortillas, and noodles and other product analyses, including enzymatic analyses to enhance intrinsic wheat quality desired by customer markets. Sub-objective 2B: Coordinate and conduct essential hard winter wheat projects of national importance, such as Wheat Quality Council (WQC), Regional Performance Nursery (RPN) and Hard Winter Wheat Crop Quality Survey (HWWCQS) for improvement of U.S wheat quality.

Cereal grains are the foundation of nutrition worldwide with the United States being a perennial leader in hard winter wheat (HWW) production and quality. Thus, domestic and international customers come to expect high quality wheat from the Great Plains. That said, there continues to be a fierce international competition for the global HWW market. U.S. wheat breeders, researchers, quality laboratories and producers are under continuous demands to deliver quality HWW just to hold a competitive edge in both domestic and international markets. Genetic and environmental variability are critical factors that affect HWW grain composition (starch and protein) and end-product quality (pre-harvest sprouting). To meet these challenges this project is composed of a multidisciplinary team that set objectives to determine the effect of HWW protein and starch in response to critical abiotic stress events. The project plan will also include the congressionally-mandated activities of the USDA Hard Winter Wheat Quality Laboratory (HWWQL). Due to recent reductions in funding, this Congressionally mandated laboratory utilizes in excess of 83% of the resources’ dedicated to this project. The HWWQL provides critical end-use quality data to the HWW growing region, and conducts three annual evaluation projects that include the Wheat Quality Council Evaluations, Regional Performance Nursery Program, and Hard Winter Wheat Crop Quality Survey. The data from these projects assist breeders, producers, millers, bakers, and other key industry components, in making pivotal decisions regarding breeding, agronomics, processing and marketing of experimental and commercial wheat varieties, as well as vital information regarding the environmental impact on established wheat cultivars.

Progress Report
This project has completed its 5-year cycle and this is the final summary report for this project. The overall objective of this project was to identify how environmental factors influence hard winter wheat end-use quality, and to evaluate the intrinsic end-use quality of newly developed wheat lines prior to release into the market chain in order to preserve U.S. wheat quality. As part of Objective 2, to identify, evaluate, and screen the intrinsic end-use quality of hard winter wheat progenies in the Great Plains growing region, and to address claims that modern wheat breeding has led to cultivars directly linked to our food supply with elevated levels of immunogenic proteins. A series of hard red winter (HRW) wheat cultivars and elite experimental lines (n=28-30) bred for or adapted to the U.S. southern Great Plains including historically relevant cultivars such as ‘Triumph’, ‘Chisholm’, ‘Duster’, ‘Newton’, ‘Karl’, ‘Jagger’, and ‘Gallagher’ and the common heirloom landrace cultivar ‘Turkey’ were grown in 2015 and repeated through 2018. Analysis included agronomic, grain and flour properties including measurement of the gluten content using a clinically relevant antibody-based assay, and the carbohydrate fructan. Grain yield and kernel size showed a stepwise increase over cycles, whereas grain protein content decreased. The reduced protein content, however, did not result in lower dough strength pertinent to bread baking applications. A novel method of directly testing gluten elasticity via the compression-recovery test indicated a general increase in gluten strength, whereas the ratio of total polymeric to total monomeric proteins remained stable across cycles. Also showing no change were flour levels of the immunotoxic peptide fragment from gluten. The oligosaccharide fructan, present in milled and wholemeal flours, increased with increasing grain yield potential. The rise in fructans does implicate potentially new dietary concerns for certain individuals with fructan intolerance. To our knowledge, this study is the first to quantify differences in fructan content in an historic North American bread wheat panel featuring incremental changes in yielding ability. ARS provides critical information to the plant breeding community, domestic and international markets on an annual basis (Sub-objective 2A). End-use quality evaluation of experimental wheat lines in the USDA Regional Performance Nurseries, as well as evaluation of advanced lines submitted to the Wheat Quality Council, are service/research activities critical to the continued success of the Hard Winter Wheat industry (Sub-objective 2B). In total, over 2000 wheat samples were tested by ARS, with over 40 quality characteristics reported for each sample submitted. Real-time wheat quality data were also provided to the wheat industry during the annual wheat harvest and updated on a weekly basis for potential buyers. Over 600 wheat samples were tested specifically for this wheat industry milling and baking survey.

1. Gluten content does not vary through Heritage to breeding modern hard winter wheat (HWW) varieties. It has been suggested that wheat breeding has increased the toxicity of gluten due to an increase in celiac disease and other forms of gluten intolerance. To investigate this claim, ARS scientists in Manhattan, Kansas, in collaboration with researchers at Oklahoma State University, measured the major toxic epitope in wheat gluten in a series of HWW lines that represent the development of modern HWW since the introduction of Turkey Red wheat in the 1870’s. Research revealed that the levels of the toxic peptide fragment from gluten did not increase. This finding helps to refute popular claims that modern wheat breeding has led to cultivars directly linked to our food supply with elevated levels of immunogenic proteins.

2. USDA-ARS annual Hard Winter Wheat Crop Quality Survey. ARS scientists in Manhattan, Kansas, completed the annual Hard Winter Wheat Crop Quality Survey in which over 600 individual and over 100 composite, hard winter wheat samples were evaluated for milling and baking quality. The resulting data was posted in real-time to a webpage managed by Plains Grain, Inc., as the harvest progressed; the data was also used by U.S. Wheat Associates in their final annual report for domestic and international export customers.

Review Publications
Van Der Laan, L., Goad, C.L., Tilley, M., Davial-El Rassi, G., Blakey, A.M., Rayas-Duarte, P., Hunger, R.M., De Oliveira Silva, A., Carver, B.F. 2020. Genetic responses in milling, flour quality, and wheat sensitivity traits to grain yield improvement in U.S. hard winter wheat. Journal of Cereal Science.
Abdolmaleki, M.K., Riasi, M., Enayati, M., Norton, A.E., Chatterjee, S., Yeghiazarian, L., Connick, W.B., Abbaspourrad, A. 2020. A digital imaging method for evaluating the kinetics of vapochromic response. Talanta.