Wheat and flour evaluations performed in the Wheat Quality Lab play a critical role in the selection of improved wheat varieties being developed in the K-State Wheat Breeding Programs of Dr. Allan Fritz (Manhattan) and Dr. Guorong Zhang (Hays).
Milling properties and flour quality are considered heavily by domestic and international processors of US hard winter wheat. The physical, biochemical and milling properties of hard wheat as well as the characteristics of the resulting flour are extremely important in the production of bread, oriental noodles, and other baked products. These wheat quality variables are genetic and are also influenced by growth, harvest, and storage conditions. Wheat breeders strive to develop wheat varieties that are high yielding and resistant to disease and pests while also exhibiting good or excellent end-use (flour and baking) quality characteristics.
To improve agronomic performance, wheat breeders often cross existing hard wheat varieties with soft wheat varieties or diverse grass-like relatives of wheat which have unacceptable end-use quality. Breeders can measure factors which determine agronomic performance; however, they cannot select for end-use quality from agronomic data. Laboratory tests carried out by people with specialized equipment, training, and experience are required to identify lines which have acceptable or superior kernel characteristics and milling and flour properties.
Wheat breeders make over one thousand crosses per year. Only a small percentage of these will have acceptable flour and baking qualities. Early quality evaluations identify the unacceptable lines so they can be eliminated from the program. Ultimately, the quality of varieties available to Kansas growers is improved and the value of Kansas wheat in domestic and export markets is enhanced.