Kansas State University and General Mills have entered into $400,000 multiyear research partnership to develop wheat varieties with improved nutritional, milling and baking qualities. The overall goal is to identify and develop improved wheat varieties that have superior nutritional and processing quality. Researchers hope results will increase the quality of consumer products through decreasing additives in processing, and increasing the utility and function of whole-grain products.
Since forming the agreement, General Mills has placed two full-time scientists in the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center at Kansas State’s Manhattan campus to help with this and other projects.
“Kansas State has unique capabilities to connect wheat research all the way from genomics to milling and baking, which makes us a strong partner for these types of research projects," said Jesse Poland, K-State assistant professor of plant pathology, associate director of the university’s Wheat Genetics Resource Center and director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Applied Wheat Genomicsa 5-year, $5-million project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. “The expectation is that Kansas wheat farmers will benefit directly from this research. Through these projects, we are focused on developing and delivering wheat varieties with superior quality that [might] be grown as high-value, contract acres."
While new varieties would help to increase yields, researchers also intend to develop wheat that contains more of the vitamins and minerals that are needed in developing parts of the world, thus addressing a global food challenge.
“With consumer food values changing and popular trends leading the consumer away from grains, General Mills thought it was a critical time to expand our research and develop a plan for the future of wheat," said Eric Jackson, a geneticist and systems biologist with General Mills Crop Biosciences, and one of the two scientists on the project. “In partnership with Kansas State, we’re connecting wheat variety development with targeted, novel consumer quality. In this project, we will implement focused approaches for characterizing and improving milling and baking qualities in wheat, combined with improving its nutritional quality."
The development of healthier foods as one part of the role science has played in supporting the growth of civilization through advances in agricultural technology, according to research presented at the 2013 National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
With the global population projected to reach more than 9 billion by 2050, global demand for food will essentially double, which could significantly increase carbon dioxide and nitrogen levels in the environment and lead to the extinction of numerous species agricultural practices. In June 2011, agriculture ministers from the G-20 countries agreed to an action plan aimed at stabilizing food prices and increasing food production that calls for establishing an international information sharing scheme to ensure transparency in agricultural markets.