Wheat–the staff of life

In a country like Canada, almost everyone has something to do with wheat.
We grow it in vast quantities, we sell it to other nations, we use it in all kinds of bread, buns, and rolls, and we feed it to our animals and poultry.
Wheat is an almost indispensable plant on the North American scene.
Wheat is another one of those domestic plants whose origins are obscure and very ancient indeed. In fact, most historians agree the cultivation of wheat started man on the road to civilization.
When man found he could scratch the soil with a pointy stick, plant some wild wheat seeds, and wait for it to ripen, then he began to cease his nomadic, roaming existence and stay in one place for a while.
So began agriculture, and with it, permanent settlements.
Wheat was cultivated in China at least 5,000 years ago. The tombs of the pharoahs always contained a lot of wheat so the king would not go hungry on his long journey to the sun.
Modern wheat is probably a cross among three species, wild wheat, and some forms of other wild grasses. The Romans, however, assumed wheat was a gift from the goddess Cerres, from which come our modern words–cereal and cereal grains.
Wheat is a member of the Grass family, which contains more than 10,000 different species. This is the most important plant family in the world, especially since it contains all of the cereal grains.
There are many, many varieties of wheat. They range in height from short-stemmed varieties, a foot or so high, to tall ones, which go up more than six feet.
In any case, the wheat plant looks like what it is, a tall grass plant.
The flowers are borne in a compact head, and are just plain green. Pollination is carried out by the wind, and not by insects, so there is no need for showy petals, nectar, or perfume.
The flowers contain only the reproductive parts, which are enclosed between two hard protective “glumes.” These get to be the chaff when the ripe grain is threshed.
Research is being done on wheat all the time, aiming to increase yield, produce hardier varieties, stronger straw, and so on. And one of the very great contributions to agriculture was a Canadian one.
In 1892, Marquis wheat was developed by Charles and Arthur Saunders. This was a hardy spring wheat which spread rapidly into the wheat areas of both Canada and the U.S.
So we both became much larger producers of wheat.
Wheat is afflicted with many diseases. The main one, which damages the plant more than any other, is the Stem Rust of Grain (Puccinia graminis). With a bad infestation, during harvest, the spores rise like red dust.
The wheat plant–Triticum aestivum–is the very basis of life to a large part of the world. Of all the land planted to grain, more than one-third of it is in wheat.
You probably eat something made from wheat every day.

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