Why wheat matters to us

Why wheat matters to us

Wheat is one of the most important staples in the world, offering high content of protein and fiber, and consisting mainly of carbohydrates in the form of starch. It also contains more minerals and trace elements vital for a healthy diet, such as phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, zinc and manganese than any other staple food.

The price of wheat has tripled since the turn of the century due to shifts in production areas, global stocks and growing demand. The rising price indicates how crucial wheat is to the world: it is used not only in primary food staple markets such as bread and pasta but also in important uses for egg and milk production.

Wheat’s role in the economy

Global cereal trade
Global cereal trade
Crop harvests are not in all regions threatened by climate change . However, important agricultural countries will be affected. The global trade of cereals shows that most of the cereal is grown in areas threatened by climate change.

Wheat isn’t grown on Greenland because it’s much too cold there, but the amount of land planted with wheat is almost exactly equal in size to the surface area of this arctic island: 217 million hectares or 2.17 billion square meters. No other crop plant is grown across such a large area.

Wheat yields have continuously risen in the past decades, and in some production areas one hectare of land supplies enough flour to make 9,250 loaves of bread. Still, the rate of yield increase is out-stripped by the constantly rising demand. As a result, wheat is frequently in short supply on the global market.

The world’s largest wheat producers are the European Union, China, India, Russia and the United States. The biggest exporters are the United States, Australia, Russia, Canada and the European Union while the main importers are Egypt, the European Union, Brazil, Indonesia, Algeria and Japan.

Problems faced by farmers

We share our taste for wheat with a large number of pathogens. Among the most dangerous are fungi that release natural substances called mycotoxins which are harmful to human and animal health.

Wheat is the preferred host for some 200 different fungi and for insects such as aphids, beetles, slugs and owlet moths. Even after the harvest, insects and fungi can devastate wheat stores.

As if this wasn’t enough to contend with, the crop is threatened by many grasses and weeds, some of which are actually distant relatives of wheat: commonly referred to as grassy weeds on top of natural infestations of broadleaf weeds.

Experts estimate that around one-third of the maximum possible wheat yield is lost to diseases and pests.

Another stress factor for wheat is the climate. “We are seeing deviations from the normal temperature much more frequently than in the past,” says Byron Richard, a wheat farmer in North Dakota, United States. And Christoph Büren from France complains: “Dry periods seem to last longer today than they used to."

(From left to right) Symptoms of common wheat bunt, Symptoms of common wheat bunt, Symptoms of common wheat bunt.
(From left to right) Symptoms of common wheat bunt, Symptoms of common wheat bunt, Symptoms of common wheat bunt.
(From left to right) Symptoms of common wheat bunt, Symptoms of common wheat bunt, Symptoms of common wheat bunt.

Answers we offer

Wheat is an essential cereal crop for feeding the world. Our work is vital in helping farmers maximize yields whilst reaping sustainable benefits. Our crop protection solutions have put us way out in front of the competition.

We help farmers with Prosaro™, Fandango™, Falcon™, Xpro™ and other specialty products to control fungal infection on wheat leaves and ears. Farmers know these products also prevent the formation of mycotoxins.

Atlantis™, Hussar™ and Puma™ help control grass weeds like Black grass , Wild oats and many other broad leaf weeds . . For regions with increasing resistance problems, we provide alternative products with an innovative mode of action, including Infinity™ and Velocity™.

In many countries, farmers use seed that has already been pretreat-ed with products like Gaucho™, Raxil™ or Redigo™. The advantage is that the active substance coating protects growing plants right from the start against fungal infection, insects or earthworms - or against all three.

New technologies for the field

Developing new value added, high yielding wheat varieties that address the problems faced by farmers today and in the future is of paramount importance in safeguarding the world’s food supply. We are contributing through our global research and breeding development network with external partners in all parts of the world. Some of them provide germplasm; others have the biotechnology competence needed for identifying new solutions to deal with our changing climate and production efficiencies; others still are helping to incorporate these traits into the seeds.

We are working to close the widening production and demand gap in wheat through higher crop productivity with new high-performance wheat varieties by addressing yield increase and high efficiency of nitrogen uptake. Stress tolerance like drought and heat as well as fungal disease resistance and parameters like protein content and baking quality are other drivers.

The initial results are very promising.