The Global Miller
In this month's issue of Milling and Grain we have an interview with the esteemed professor of milling from the Henan University of Technology in China, Dr Wu Wenbin.
With a population of over 1.42 billion, China is the world's largest producer and consumer of wheat. The crop is grown in every province of China but one, within 10 major agro-ecological zones established based on environmental factors, such as wheat type, growing season, temperature and photoperiod. More than 90 percent of wheat grain is used to make steamed bread and noodles.
Since the Republic was founded in 1949, average wheat yields have risen from 0.70 to 3.86 t/ha, and wheat production has increased from 16.4 to 112.0 million tonnes. Such advances were made possible by a program of breeding initiated in the 1930s, with the goal of improving yield potential, plant stature, maturity, and disease resistance. Between 1950 and 1996, China's wheat production area increased from 22-to-29 million hectares.
The future for wheat in China looks bright; there are agricultural universities or colleges and academies of agricultural sciences in almost every one of the country's provinces. Most of these institutes located in wheat production areas have active breeding programs.
This focus on education has paid dividends - since 1950 major varieties have been replaced several times, with each replacement bringing around a 10 percent yield increase. Average plant height has been reduced from 110-120 cm in the early 1950s to less than 90 cm at present.