Defining the basis for variation in water absorption of UK wheat flours

Project number 21130025

Lead partner Rothamsted Research

Scientific partners Reading University

Industry partners Heygates

Start date April 2016

End date March 2019

AHDB Funding £180,000 (total funding £195,000)

The challenge

Low water absorption (WA) of wheat flour can force millers to supplement their grist with imported wheat because of the impacts on baking yield, energy usage, mill wear and customer satisfaction. For baking yield, a reduction in WA of up to 5% represents a decrease in bread wheat value of around 4% or a loss of £38/ha. Low WA was identified in 2010, 2013 and 2015 UK crops but had not been previously recorded.There is an urgent need to identify the factors that determine WA and how their impact relates to differences between cultivars and growth conditions.

The project

This project will determine the relative contributions of starch, protein and pentosans to WA, using grain samples from archived and current field experiments. These will include samples from 2013 and 2014, samples with different protein contents and disease pressures and lines which differ in pentosan content. The information from comparative analyses of these samples will be validated using samples from AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds projects and used as a basis for developing small-scale tests to predict WA suitable for grain merchants and millers.

The benefits

A better understanding of what contributes to WA will provide routes to manage the domestic crop through improved agronomy, breeding or processing and consequently lead to a more consistent demand for the domestic crop by UK millers.

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