During the ASTA CSS & Seed Expo this week, attendees were invited to a panel titled, “Value Chain Engagement in Wheat Improvement” that brought together representatives from across the wheat value chain to discuss needed innovation in the wheat industry.
Justin Gilpin, CEO of the Kansas Wheat Commission, focused on the benefit of public/private partnerships as well as work the KWC is doing to further R&D for wheat. “Roughly 25% [of the budget available for KWC] goes into wheat research, market promotion, and education. Today, more private investments back into wheat have driven a lot of competition into wheat research. The innovation this has generated has built momentum; recently Kansas farmers invested into a new $11m research facility that enables more wheat genetics research to improve private/public sector partnerships. Discussions over the next 6-12 months are going to be about how we apply these new technologies; not only working on yield and stress technologies for the wheat crop, but also identifying the consumer traits & benefits that will create demand.”
[wpaudio url=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/zimmcomm/asta-15-kansaswheat-gilpin.mp3″ text=”Interview with Justin Gilpin, Kansas Wheat”]
Len Heflich, VP of Food Safety, Quality, and Crisis Management for Grupo Bimbo, represented wheat buyers on the panel. Grupo Bimbo is the world’s largest bakery production company with a presence in 22 countries. For a wheat buyer, consistent, quality supply is perhaps the largest concern. “The ability to buy crop average every year and then blend it is very critical to us. Having said that, there are some years where the crop average for winter wheat is not so good, or spring wheat isn’t so good. Our aim in the past has been to buy spring wheat for absorption and winter wheat for stability. It worked for a long time; you could blend those two flours at the right ratios to end with stability and absorption we needed.
“Wheat is a very complex crop. GM (genetically modified) is a powerful techonology and has driven a 40% yield improvement in corn. Can we ignore that and say the world doesn’t need a 40% improvement in wheat? I think we would be irresponsible to do that. But it’s more than yield; it’s insurance against, weather, diseases, pests, and drought. That’s good for everyone.”
[wpaudio url=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/zimmcomm/asta-15-grupobimbo-heflich.mp3″ text=”Interviews with Len Heflich, Grupo Bimbo”]
Glen Weaver, Research Fellow with Ardent Mills, discussed the factors that drive wheat production as well as where the value is spread across the wheat industry. “People generally just respond to crisis and if you heard the comments today, we’re about as close to crisis on overall flour quality for high speed operation. We’ve looked at this as an opportunity to make investments to look at traits that would counter that quality perspective, and then figure out how we can put that into the mixer (whether in a refined flour or whole grain product) to bolster the overall strength and give the bakers what they’re looking for.”
[wpaudio url=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/zimmcomm/asta-15-ardentmills-weaver-wheat.mp3″ text=”Interview with Glen Weaver, Ardent Mills”]