Overseas customers tour Wooster wheat breeding program

From Chinese steamed bread to Middle Eastern flat breads to Latin American galletas, soft red winter (SRW) wheat is used around the world for the largest variety of end products of any wheat class. However, each end product requires different quality specifications — meaning it can be difficult at times for a customer to find just the right amounts of protein, water absorption or gluten strength.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) brought several overseas customers to Wooster last week to discuss SRW wheat quality targets with domestic millers and wheat researchers as part of the Overseas Varietal Analysis (OVA) program. Each of the participants is a cooperator for USW’s OVA program, which utilizes international millers and bakers to extensively test new varieties of SRW wheat for use in specific end products. Results are used by state wheat commissions to develop recommended variety lists for farmers and set quality targets for U.S. wheat breeders.

At the 2011 OVA Program SRW Technical Conference, cooperators from Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru and China presented quality testing results of the 2009 crop for use in steamed bread, sponge cakes and cookies. USW staff from foreign offices in China, Mexico, Singapore and the Netherlands also participated in discussing opportunities and challenges for millers and bakers in their markets.

“Through the OVA process, USW is attempting to interject the end user’s voice into the variety selection process,” Steve Wirsching, director of USW’s West Coast office in Portland, OR, said. “As a result, we can identify wheat varieties that have the quality characteristics that best meet our customer’s needs and improve the farmer’s bottom line.”

The overseas participants also attended the Workshop on Wheat Quality Targets and Research Review Conference, sponsored by the USDA/ARS Soft Wheat Quality Laboratory and the AACC International – Cincinnati Section. Additionally, the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association hosted a downtown luncheon and arranged for OVA cooperators to tour Deerfield Farms, which operates five regional grain elevators in addition to growing SRW wheat.

“The conference was very useful, especially for my region (Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean). With all these presentations, they have seen what millers do in other regions of the world and how they are using quality testing results,” Marcelo Mitre, technical specialist in USW’s Mexico City office, said. “The cooperators are going back home with a better understanding of how the OVA program helps everyone — millers, breeders and marketers.”

Gustavo Botero, the technical director for Noel in Colombia, agreed that the interaction between international customers, wheat breeders and researchers and domestic millers was important. Noel produces primarily cookies and crackers and exports to more than 40 countries.

“The conference was very good,” Botero said. “I am going to put into practice all of the knowledge I have received here.”

Samples of the 2010 SRW crop are being sent to 11 cooperators in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates for evaluation. For more information on results for specific SRW varieties, please contact your state wheat commission or USW.

USW is the industry’s export market development organization working in more than 100 countries on behalf of America’s wheat producers. The activities of USW are made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and through cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org or contact your state wheat commission.

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