Improving the milling and nutritional quality of UK wheat

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Plant Sciences


Developed in the UK in 1961, the Chorleywood bread process (CBP) revolutionised the use of
domestically grown lower protein wheat and is now estimated to be used to make ~80% of the UK's bread. The main success of the CBP is its use of mechanical processing and additives which enable use of lower protein UK wheat compared to traditional slow fermentation methods. It also dramatically reduces processing time, with a typical loaf of bread produced and packaged for sale in under 4 hours. There is a well documented inverse correlation between wheat yield and grain protein content. UK wheat breeding has been driven by yield improvements (Mackay et al., 2011 TAAG 122:225-38) supported by favourable long growing seasons with ample moisture. The UK regularly produces the world's highest wheat yields but this has come at the expense of grain protein content.
Prior to the introduction of the CBP, hard, high protein wheat for bread-making was imported from North America. Today, the CBP ensures that 85% of the wheat used by UK millers is home-grown ( Canadian wheat is still imported, and is used to blend with UK wheat due to its superior gluten strength and bread-making properties. UK breeders continue to breed for high yield to the detriment of quality largely because it is harder to select quality traits, particularly those which require expensive physical testing. Interestingly, 'Red Fife', the progenitor of most Canadian hard wheat now imported by the UK is present in the pedigrees of many UK bread-making varieties indicating that variation for high quality exists within the UK germplasm pool.
Identifying and characterising relevant genetic regions could therefore lead to improved ease and accuracy of selection in breeding programmes. Genomic tools are now sufficiently advanced to allow the detailed dissection and mobilisation of novel milling and nutritional quality traits in elite UK wheats. This underpins the two core Objectives to:
1. Uncover, using next generation wheat resources, the genetic architecture of milling quality in
elite UK wheat relevant to the UK breeding, milling and baking industries.
2. Mine novel protein, nutritient and micro-nutrient attributes in diverse wheat germplasm relevant to improving the nutritional status of UK supporting dietary health.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011194/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
2119871 Studentship BB/M011194/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2022 Nicholas Fradgley