How and when is wheat grown

Info sheet wheat

Wheat (velcro)


Wheat is a grain and belongs to the grass family. Wheat is the most important food crop in the world. Wheat is the traditional staple food in our culture.


Wheat is an annual plant and can reach a height of three feet. The leaves are similar to those of other grasses; they appear early and are later followed by slender stalks that end in square, dense ears. Outwardly, wheat fields can be clearly distinguished from other grain fields: the wheat plants are all of the same height and have upright stalks; the wheat varieties grown by us are usually without awns. A distinction is made between the two most important types of wheat: seed wheat (with the varieties summer and winter wheat) and durum wheat. 90% of the world's wheat is grown from seed.

Origin / distribution / growing areas

In the early centers of agriculture, in the fertile plains of the Tigris and Euphrates in the Middle East, grain finds from the 7th millennium BC were found. Proven. From here the cultivated plant wheat came to Europe. The Europeans, on the other hand, brought wheat breeding to this continent after the discovery of America. The ancestors of wheat are einkorn, emmer and spelled, whereby einkorn is the original wild grain from which emmer and spelled emerged through crossings with other wild grasses. Emmer was the grain of antiquity and the Middle Ages. The old wheat varieties were not very productive and their grains also had stubborn husks that had to be removed in an additional operation, peeling, after the grain had been threshed. Systematic grain breeding, beginning at the end of the 19th century, has decimated the formerly innumerable site-adapted wheat varieties to a shockingly few highly cultivated varieties. Wheat is the most widespread crop on earth and is currently grown almost all over the world. The northern cultivation limit is around 60 ° north latitude. The main areas of cultivation are the temperate zone, with more productive winter wheat, and the subtropical zone, where the frost-sensitive summer form of wheat is usually grown in rotation with rice. The lowlands of the humid tropics are ruled out for wheat cultivation due to the high levels of precipitation and the pests and diseases that come with it. Cultivation is only possible at high altitudes in the humid tropics.
By far the largest wheat producer is China. Other major wheat producers are India, the United States, and countries of the former Soviet Union such as Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

Cultivation / location requirements

Wheat places high demands on the soil, especially when it comes to the supply of nutrients. The growing regions of wheat therefore correlate with the agrarian favored areas. Sufficient mineral fertilization, especially with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, must be ensured by the farmers. The best yields are achieved with a three-year break in cultivation. The optimal rainfall is between 500 and 600 mm per year. Durum wheat, which only accounts for around 10% of world wheat cultivation, also tolerates precipitation amounts below 500 mm and is therefore widespread in the dry steppe areas (Middle East, Mediterranean region, Australia). Weed control with herbicides is necessary over the entire cultivation period. One tries to change the leaf width and position in the grain by breeding in such a way that the weed pressure is reduced by early soil shading.
Common wheat diseases are leaf drought, powdery mildew, leaf and husk browning as well as various burn and rust diseases caused by fungi. Combating pathogens, especially the use of fungicides, is therefore an essential part of growing wheat. Especially with the high-yielding varieties with their short stalks, the ears are closer to the ground and therefore more at risk from pathogens.


Of the many varieties of wheat, only a few highly bred varieties are still grown today. The many insignificant, small-scale varieties correspond to local site conditions. These species play an important role as the basis for breeding. Breeding goals are primarily high yields, better quality and resistance to diseases and pests. Especially with regard to different resistances (e.g. drought resistance; resistance to various diseases - especially fungi), the gene pool of almost forgotten wild forms is a real treasure trove. One example is the powdery mildew resistance gene Pm5, which many current wheat varieties contain. This gene goes back to wild material of the Asian tribe of the Emmer.
Despite intensive development efforts, transgenic varieties with economically interesting benefits have not yet been able to establish themselves in wheat, although the first genetically modified wheat came onto the market in 2002 - initially only as animal feed.

Harvest and storage

The winter wheat that dominates here is sown around October and harvested in July / August the following year. Harvesting is done with combine harvesters. The hard kernels easily fall out of the husks during threshing. Wheat is characterized by an extremely good and long shelf life.


Wheat is primarily used in the production of bread flour. But wheat flour is also used for a wide variety of other pastries (rolls, cakes, biscuits). Pasta, pearl barley and semolina are also wheat products. To a limited extent, the grain is used in the production of beer, whiskey and industrial alcohol. By-products and waste products from grinding, brewing or distilling serve as valuable animal feed.
The industrially obtained pure wheat starch is used for the production of laundry starch and the preparation of paste.
However, more than half of the wheat harvest is used as feed.

Economical meaning

The world production of wheat in 2010 was around 650 million tons per year. This put wheat in third place among the food crops after maize and rice.
The global demand for consumer goods made from wheat continues to grow. The growth in demand in recent years has mainly been concentrated in the Asian developing and emerging countries. The increasing preference for a "Western diet" over traditional foods is closely related to rising incomes, urbanization trends and changes in eating habits. In addition, a trend towards increased meat consumption can be observed in these countries. This in turn boosts the demand for feed grain in the processing industry. The five main exporters in the wheat market are the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the EU. In the case of the importing countries, there is a much greater spread; A total of 80 countries in the world import wheat, especially Japan.

Source: Geography Information Center
Author: Claudia Fischer
Publisher: Klett
Location: Leipzig
Source date: 2003
Processing date: 06/11/2012

Wheat, grain, crop

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