Full text of "Wheat"
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University of Illinois Library
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ONIVERSITV OF UlMtt UBRMT
MJG 16 1922
FIELD MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
WVEBSmr OF JLLW0I8 LIBRM
AUG 16 1922
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Field Museum of Natural History
DEPARTMENT OF BOTANY
Leaflet Number 3
Mankind has undoubtedly always used the seed of
wild grasses for food. Some of these, indeed, furnish
very fair-sized grain and from such our cultivated
cereals are unquestionably derived, though we cannot
now always trace them to their respective wild proto-
types. An example of such a large-grained wild grass
is the recently discovered Wild Emmer of Palestine,
which is considered by some to represent the original
wild form from which certain of our cultivated wheats
Among the cereal grasses, wheat is by far the
most important to the western world. It was first
brought to this continent into Mexico by the Spaniards
in 1520, later into New England and into Virginia by
the early settlers. In Europe and in Asia it has been
grown for thousands of years. In Europe it has been
discovered in various places in remains of the later
Stone Age. It has been grown about the eastern end
of the Mediterranean and in Mesopotamia for at least
five or six thousand years. It was cultivated in Baby-
lonia and has been found in ancient Egyptian graves.
To the far east it was grown in ancient China, to the
south in India, and in Abyssinia in Africa. Its pres-
ence in several varieties even in Europe in pre-historic
times and its ancient wide distribution would seem to
be evidence that the beginning of its cultivation be-
r longs to the earliest history of mankind. Unless the
cultivation of wheat was undertaken independently in
the various regions, its place of origin must be con-
2 Field Museum of Natural History
sidered to coincide approximately with the location of
a probable early center of dispersion of the human
race in the old world. This is generally placed in
central Asia, perhaps somewhat to the westward,
about the region of eastern Turkestan where climatic
conditions in the time of primitive man are likely to
have been more favorable than they are now.
Some primitive wheats are still grown to an ex-
tent in Southern Europe. These are Einkorn, Em-
mer and Spelt. They are stamped as primitive by
certain characteristics which they share with the wild
grasses of the genus Triticum (an old Latin name for
wheat) to which they belong. Like these they have a
fragile, articulated head which breaks into segments
on threshing, and their mature grain refuses to sepa-
rate readily from its envelopes. In the other culti-
vated wheats the axis of the head is stout and not
articulated, resisting breakage, while the ripe grain
comes away easily and clean.
In the illustration, Nos. 1, 2, and 3 represent wild
grasses related to wheat. Nos. 4, 5, and 6 are the
primitive cultivated wheats.
No. 4. Einkorn, one-grained wheat, is so called
because it has a single seed in each division (little
spike or "spikelet") of the head. It yields a scanty
crop but will grow in stony ground and is still culti-
vated to a small extent in mountainous South Europ-
ean regions — notably in Spain. It has been found in
the remains of the lake dwellers of the stone age. The
wild form still grows in Southeastern Europe — e. g.
No. 5. Emmer, also known as starch wheat or two-
grained spelt, is another bristly or awned form with a
flattened head. It exists in many varieties. It was
cultivated by the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians,
Persians, and by the Greeks and Romans. It has been
identified in remains of the Swiss lake dwellers. It is
still grown in mountainous Switzerland, in Russia
where it is used for a gruel, in Germany, in Italy and
in Spain. It is grown somewhat in the United States.
The illustration is of a Black Winter Emmer.
No. 6. Spelt, is usually stated to be the oldest of
the cultivated grains and considered to have been the
wheat of Egypt, Greece and Rome, which is probably
partly erroneous, due to a confusion with Emmer.
It was cultivated, however, by the Romans in the later
days of the Empire. A wild prototype is not known.
It is still grown in some South European localities,
particularly in northern Spain.
No. 7. Polish Wheat, sometimes called "Jerusa-
lem rye" or "Giant rye," is a hard wheat of very char-
acteristic appearance due largely to the length of the
papery bracts of the individual spikelets. The grain
is elongated, resembling rye, and falls readily from the
mature head. In spite of its name it is not a native of
Poland. It is cultivated in Spain, in Italy, in Turkes-
tan and in Abyssinia. It is also introduced into the
United States, but to date is not of much economic
No. 8. Poulard Wheat is also known as English
Wheat, and a variety known as Rivet Wheat, is grown
in England, but Poulard Wheat belongs of old to the
dry eastern and southern Mediterranean region. It
has a tendency to "sport," forming branching spikes
or heads and hence is variously called Miracle Wheat,
Seven-headed Wheat of Egypt, Jerusalem Wheat, etc.
The illustration is of a variety known as Alaska,
grown in the United States. In spite of the large size
of the heads of the Poulard Wheat, the yield is not
great and not equal in quality to some of the common
wheats. It is of slight economic importance.
4 Field Museum of Natural History
No. 9. Club Wheat is so named from the shape
of the heads which are short, thick, and often broader
near the tip than below. The grain is soft, the stems
are short and stout. It belongs to rather mild climates
and the mountainous districts of Europe, Turkestan
and Abyssinia. It is introduced on this continent,
and is grown particularly in Chile and in the Pacific
and Rocky Mountain States.
No. 10. Durum Wheat is an extremely hard,
flinty wheat from Russia, brought to the United States
by early immigrants. It is economically important,
as are those which follow. The flour produced from
it is higher in gluten and conversely lower in starch
content than other wheats and is used in the manu-
facture of semolina and macaroni and other pastes.
For bread making it is sometimes mixed with flour of
the more starchy, softer wheats. Durum Wheat, also,
is said to have been found in old Egyptian remains. It
is grown in India, in Algeria, and is the principal wheat
crop of Spain. It is resistant to rust and is especially
adapted to somewhat arid land, being also resistant to
drought. On this continent Durum is grown success-
fully in South and Central America, and in the United
States in the Great Plains Area, particularly towards
its Rocky Mountain border. The illustration is of the
variety Arnautka which grows well in the more humid
eastern portion of the Great Plains.
No. 11. Turkey Wheat, originally from South
Russia, the Crimea, etc., is now the leading hard winter
wheat of the United States and endures well the low
winter temperature of the Northwestern States, except
where the climate is very severe, as in North Dakota.
No. 12. Wilhelmina, a stout, soft white wheat
from Holland, represents a type of winter wheat com-
monly grown in North Europe. It has been introduced
into the United States.
No. 13. Pacific Bluestem, an Australian variety,
somehow misnamed "bluestem," is the leading soft
white spring wheat of the Pacific area.
No. 14. Dicklow, a soft spring wheat cultivated
under irrigation in Idaho and elsewhere, produces a
remarkably large head. It was originated by a Utah
farmer, Dick Low, through selection from variants of
a California Club Wheat.
No. 15. Marquis Wheat originated in Canada, by
selection from hybrids of a hard, red wheat from Cal-
cutta, India, and Red Fife Wheat. It is the leading,
hard, red, spring wheat of the Northern Great Plains
No. 16. Red Fife Wheat is one of the principal
hard spring wheats of the Great Plains Region. It
originated in Canada among a few plants, from a
sample winter wheat from Russia. It now represents
a parent stem from which many varieties of northern
wheats have been derived.
No. 17. Kitchener Wheat is another hard, spring
wheat of the Red Fife type from the plains of the
The varieties of common wheat are very numerous.
According to a survey by the Department of Agricul-
ture over two hundred, well defined kinds are recog-
nized in the United States. There are bearded and
smooth wheats, hard and soft, red and white, spring
and winter, etc. Of the common wheats shown in the
illustration (Nos. 11 to 17) Turkey Wheat is the only
bristly, bearded, or awned form, the others are almost
awnless or entirely beardless. The well-known divi-
sion of wheats into spring and winter wheats has
reference to their resistance to cold, but also to ability
to mature their seed in a single, short growing season.
The grasses from which the cereals are derived are
6 Field Museum of Natural History
perennials while the cultivated cereals are, on the
whole, annuals. The ideal climate for wheat is one
with a mild winter, a cool and moist spring conducive
to abundant development of the vegetative part of the
plant, followed by a warm, dry summer for rapid
ripening of the grain. Wheats which in their proper
latitudes withstand the low temperature of winter
without injury are known as winter wheats. True
winter wheats are "winter annuals" only and will not
ripen seed when sown in the spring. They are sown
in the fall, and germinate and form roots before the
onset of cold weather. Starting in the spring with a
partly developed root system they make a vigorous,
early growth. They ordinarily show a higher yield,
are more likely to escape rust, and mature their grain
earlier than the spring sown wheats. The spring
wheats are more tender varieties that complete their
growth in one season and in spite of a later start
mature their grains. In northern latitudes only spring
wheats can be grown. In mild climates both spring
and winter wheats may be grown from fall sowing.
As a rule the hard winter wheats are more resistant
to cold than are the soft, but all wheats naturally be-
long to somewhat more moderate climates than their
northerly relative rye.
Hard and soft wheats differ in the composition of
the grain. The soft wheats are richer in starch and
are likely to have large grains, while the hard, with
smaller grains, are relatively richer in gluten. Flour
made from soft wheat is esteemed for cake and pastry
making, but by itself is "weak" and out of a given
quantity does not make a large loaf. Hard wheats
make a "strong" flour which, on account of the binding
properties of gluten, retains the gas produced by the
yeast and make a light loaf. They are now generally
mixed in different proportions for various purposes.
Under normal conditions the chief wheat-growing
countries in order of quantity produced before the
world war were : United States, Russia, France, India,
Italy, in the first rank; Spain, Austria-Hungary, Ger-
many, in the second ; followed by Canada, Argentina,
Turkey and the United Kingdom. The latter is the
chief importing country. The order, however, varies
with the period considered. The wheat production of
Canada and of Argentina has been steadily rising.
Northern India, China, and Australia produce wheat
in considerable quantities. In order of normal per
capita consumption of wheat, France came first, then
New Zealand, Australia, United States, Great Britain,
Austria-Hungary, Germany and Canada.
The statement is not infrequently made that the
world's wheat production has reached its limit, but
this is far from the truth. While the older method of
milling prevailed, pulverizing the entire wheat for
flour, the softer wheats were preferred and wheat
growing was largely restricted to regions producing
them. With the introduction into the flour mills of
the steel roller process, by which the contents of the
kernel are simply squeezed out of the husk, it was
found that a most desirable, better keeping flour could
be produced from hard, northern and western wheats.
Wheat growing in the United States thereby received
a great impetus and the producing area was vastly
expanded over the great plains. By the opening of
new regions like Siberia and by the introduction of
suitable, perhaps new, varieties such as undoubtedly
will result from scientifically conducted, systematic
breeding experiments, the world's wheat production
certainly is capable of considerable further expansion.
B. E. Dahlgren.
Field Museum of Natural History
THE ORIGIN AND CLASSIFICATION OF WHEATS.
The three primitive wheats (Nos. 3, 4, 5) are considered by
one authority to be representative respectively of three groups,
each derived from a different wild prototype, viz., Einkorn
group (No. 4 only); Emmer group (Nos. 5, 8, 9, 10); Spelt
group (Nos. 6, 11, 12-17).
The generally accepted botanical classification of wheats is
as follows: Einkorn (Triticum monococcum) , Polish Wheat (Tri-
ticum polonicum) , Wheat and Spelt (Triticum sativum), the latter
subdivided into three races, viz., Spelts (T. spelta) , Emmers (T.
dicoccum) , and Wheats (T. tenax), the last comprising four sub-
races: Poulard Wheat (T. turgidum), Durum Wheat (T. durum),
Club Wheat (T. compactum), and Common Wheat (T. aestivum),
with numerous varieties.
The exhibits in the Field Museum of Wheat and of other
Cereal Grasses are to be found in the Department of Botany,
Halls 25 and 28, on the second floor.
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