What is wheat?
Wheat is a grass. Humans have eaten some version of wheat dating back to the start of agriculture, perhaps ten thousand years ago. What was wheat then? A fourteen chromosone grass. This wheat contains the “A” genome. We call it einkorn. A farmer not far from my home grows einkorn.
Hybrid wheats, Kamut and Emmer
By design or by accident, einkorn was hybridized with wild grass, resulting in twenty-eight chromosone new versions called emmer and kamut. Emmer is the wheat of the bible. It contains both genomes “A” and “B”.
Hybridized again, Spelt
Spelt was yet another hybrid that added the “D” genome with fourteen more chromosones for a total of forty-two. It was widely cultivated through the middle ages. Over time, strains adapted to specific habitats developed and were grown well into the twentieth century,
Gluten, Glutenin, and Gliadin in the "D" genome
In recent times, the “D” genome has been manipulated, producing unique glutens, glutenins, and gliadins. It is within those genes that most of the problems lie. These new genetically manipulated strains resulted in dwarf wheat that has texture (elastic bread), agricultural productivity, and other characteristics that are highly desired. As with pharmaceuticals, there are side effects. It is those modern strains that grew on wheat acreage that I owned.
To Be Continued
Photo by Dave Carsten