WERA1009: Systems to Improve End-use Quality of Wheat

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

WERA1009: Systems to Improve End-use Quality of Wheat

Duration: 10/01/2012 to 09/30/2017

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Wheat quality is defined by its diverse end-uses. Wheat's unique and varied processing attributes, as well as tradition, produced many market classes based on end-use quality and food makers capture value from those classes. Many scientists, both public and private, seek to improve the end-use quality of all market classes of wheat. The entire wheat enterprise, from farm to processor, recognizes the need to coordinate quality improvement efforts. This project will create a multi-disciplinary committee for exchange of wheat quality information among growers, researchers and industry. Its primary goal is to use industry input to focus public research efforts and educate growers, researchers and industry about the wheat cultivars, newest wheat quality research tools, and wheat food product specifications. Past work of a similar committee led to shifts in acreage from lesser quality to higher quality varieties. Similar measurable results are anticipated from this project.


  1. Coordinate research on the improvement of wheat quality in all classes of PNW wheat for domestic and international end-uses.
  2. Facilitate the exchange of information among research, extension and industry representatives on wheat end-use quality.
  3. Evaluate the quality of regional, extension and breeding nurseries and improve quality evaluations of those trials.
  4. Use regional nursery and extension testing data to measure genotype and environmental effects on end-use quality of wheat and in turn improve PNW wheat marketing.
  5. Utilize advanced instrumentation, molecular biology, biochemistry, and cereal chemistry to improve end-use quality of adapted wheat cultivars.
  6. Explore functional quality of wheat for human health.

Procedures and Activities

1. With the exception of soft red wheat, all market classes of wheat are grown in the Western region. The historic target values and accepted ranges for many quality parameters are well-established. Newer quality parameter targets and ranges are less clear. However, none are static as industry processes and products evolve. The milling and baking industry, through large-scale tests can provide important guidance to the research community. The USDA/ARS Wheat Quality Laboratory in Pullman, Washington and the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Oregon can translate these needs and information to small-scale tests, allowing wheat breeders to utilize the procedures and information into cultivar development efforts. Further coordination of breeding and extension testing can identify environmental areas conducive to high quality wheat production for specific market classes. Expertise, superior germplasm and optimal production areas can combine to meet market needs and opportunities. This project will be venue for that combination to occur among research, extension, and industry partners.

2. Information exchange between interdisciplinary research groups and industry will occur at the yearly project meeting usually held mid to late January. Informal exchanges also occur among research groups and with industry throughout the year through working relationships developed in the project. A web site managed by the USDA/ARS Western Wheat Quality Laboratory is also available to facilitate information exchange in the interval between meetings.

3. Analysis of regional nursery samples by the USDA/ARS Wheat Quality Laboratory provides end-use quality information on a standard set of lines grown across a wide variety of environments. This information enables breeders to know how environmentally stable their cultivars are in terms of end-use quality and it allows the wheat industry to identify cultivars that have promise in terms of end-use quality for their purchasing areas. The relatively large amount of seed per cultivar generated by the regional nurseries allows the USDA/ARS Wheat Quality Laboratory to conduct more extensive quality evaluations. Most Western states also conduct extension testing of new cultivars in on-farm trials to determine the local adaptation of the new cultivars in farm production settings. Like the regional testing system, the grain produced in the extension testing system is evaluated for end-use quality.

4. The influence of genotype, environment, and their interaction on end-use quality can be established using regional and extension nursery samples as well as seed samples from each breeding program. Individual state and ARS laboratories will conduct small sample evaluation for protein quality (SDS sedimentation or SRC lactic acid), color (PPO tests on seed or Minolta values on noodle sheets), test weight, kernel hardness, falling number, milling quality, flour absorption capacities by water, sucrose and carbonate SRCs and baking tests for bread, cookie, and/or cake quality. This information is shared at either the annual meeting or on the Web. These trials are increasingly used by wheat quality laboratories to develop quality indices and to cull wheat cultivars of undesirable quality before the cultivars are released or reach wide spread production.

5. Molecular markers are becoming available that help pinpoint quality traits that can only be determined by extensive testing and baking. The ability to identify genes and/or linked markers associated with end-use quality genes is advancing rapidly, improving the ability of the breeders to select for genotypes with improved end-use quality potential. Instrumentation such as texture analyzers (food texture measurement) and the Rapid Viscoanalyzer (measurement of starch attributes) provide extensive measurements of end-use but without linkage to industry evaluation and criteria the significance of those measurements are largely lost. A primary goal of this project is to identify new methods for assessing quality and to tie those methods to measures of value important to wheat end-users.

6. Increased intake of non-starch polysaccharides and resistant starch improves human health by improving laxation, reducing GI, and lowering plasma cholesterol level. Cultivar and germplasm with high amylose and arabinoxylan content can be selected by screening of materials from NSGC and TILLING.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Public and private wheat breeding and cultivar testing programs in Idaho, Oregon and Washington will be coordinated for end-use quality evaluation with participation of other western state programs strongly encouraged.
  • Ideas and information will be exchanged among university and industry personnel during annual meetings.
  • Preferred cultivar lists will be published in cooperation with wheat grower organizations.
  • Methods of wheat quality testing will be standardized across participating institutions.
  • Acreage of cultivars with improved end-use quality will increase across the PNW and the greater western region of the United States.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Annual meetings will provide the primary opportunity for educational outreach and exchange between industry and research. Project participants will meet in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Wheat Quality Council (PNWWQC) and the Pacific Northwest Division of the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC-International). The PNWWQC is an industry centered group that meets to discuss quality issues in the region and collaborates on testing and quality evaluation of potential cultivars being considered for release by public and private wheat breeding programs in the Western Region. Interaction with this group has proved to be enlightening and invaluable. Wheat researchers throughout the Western Region gain early access to industry-developed techniques through industry collaboration in this project and the PNWWQC allowing for earlier selection of wheat genotypes with the end-use quality profiles that meet the industry's needs. Along with researchers, extension educators and industry representatives, participation by wheat growers and representatives of the region's state wheat commissions allows for input from the wheat producer's perspective. This participation by growers at the meeting is encouraged to improve wheat producer understanding of end products and markets available to their crops and how their cultural practices and cultivar choices impact the quality of the end-use products.

Researchers communicate the information gathered at the project meeting with growers at field days, in grower meetings and through technical bulletins. More involvement by quality lab personnel in these activities should occur. Quality evaluations produced by the project and the PNWWQC directly influence the release decisions of wheat breeders in the Western region. Similarly, quality evaluations produced by these joint councils are used by state wheat commissions in promoting superior quality wheats and in discouraging production of inferior quality wheats.


Elected officers consist of a chair, chair-elect and secretary.

In addition to participation by university faculty from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, this project has consistently had meeting participation by representatives from western state wheat and grain commissions, Agricultural Research Service grain quality labs, the Federal Grain Inspection Service, US Wheat Associates, the Wheat Marketing Center, and from private cereal breeding and milling companies. Examples of past and anticipated future participants include:

Idaho Wheat Commission

Oregon Wheat Commission

Washington Grain Alliance

Western Wheat Quality Lab

Wheat Marketing Center

US Wheat Associates

Federal Grain Inspection Service


Bayer Plant Sciences

Dow Agrosciences

Limagrain Cereal Seeds

WestBred, a unit of Monsanto

Continental Mills

General Mills

Horizon Milling


Pendleton Flour Mills

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Saint Pierre, C., Peterson, C. J., Ross, A. S., Ohm, J. B., Verhoeven, M. C., Larson, M. and Hoefer, B. 2008b. Winter wheat genotypes under different levels of nitrogen and water stress: Changes in grain protein composition. Journal of Cereal Science 47:407-416.

Scudiero, L. and Morris, C. F. 2010. Field emission scanning electron and atomic force microscopy, and Raman and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy characterization of near-isogenic soft and hard wheat kernels and corresponding flours. Journal of Cereal Science 52:136-142.

Smith, N., Guttieri, M., Souza, E., Shoots, J., Sorrells, M. and Sneller, C. 2011. Identification and Validation of QTL for Grain Quality Traits in a Cross of Soft Wheat Cultivars Pioneer Brand 25R26 and Foster. Crop Science 51:1424-1436.

Souza, E. J., Griffey, C., Kweon, M. and Guttieri, M. 2008a. Sources of variation for long-flow experimental milling. Crop Science 48:1432-1440.

Souza, E. J., Guttieri, M. and Sneller, C. 2011a. Nutritional Profile of Whole-Grain Soft Wheat Flour. Cereal Chemistry 88:473-479.

Souza, E. J., Guttieri, M. J., O'Brien, K. M. and Zernetra, R. S. 2008b. Registration of 'Juniper' Wheat. Journal of Plant Registrations 2:47-50.

Souza, E. J., Guttieri, M. J., O'Brien, K. M. and Zernetra, R. S. 2008c. Registration of 'UI Darwin'Wheat. Journal of Plant Registrations 2:43-46.

Souza, E. J., Guttieri, M. J. and Sneller, C. 2011b. Selecting Soft Wheat Genotypes for Whole Grain Cookies. Crop Science 51:189-197.

Souza, E. J., Guttieri, M. J. and Sneller, C. 2011c. Water-Extractable Nonstarch Polysaccharide Distribution in Pilot Milling Analysis of Soft Winter Wheat. Cereal Chemistry 88:525-532.

Souza, E. J., Lazar, M. D., Guttieri, M. J., Thill, D. and Rauch, T. 2006. Registration of 'Idaho 587' Wheat. Crop Science 46:1387-1389.

Zhang, J., Martin, J. M., Beecher, B., Morris, C. F., Hannah, L. C. and Giroux, M. J. 2009. Seed-specific expression of the wheat puroindoline genes improves maize wet milling yields. Plant Biotechnology Journal 7:733-743.

Zhou, X., Baik, B.-K., Wang, R. and Lim, S.-T. 2010. Retrogradation of waxy and normal corn starch gels by temperature cycling. Journal of Cereal Science 51:57-65.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

USDA-ARS/Washington, Wheat Marketing Center
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