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Wheat – The Crop That Conquered The World

The world produces a vast range of crops, but one can be found in fields across the globe – wheat

The first evidence of wheat being grown is from nearly 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent – the arc of land stretching from Egypt in the west through Israel to Iran in the east. The crop originated from wild grasses, with natural selection and interventions by early farmers resulting in a reliable crop. The ability to grow, transport and store wheat in a range of conditions allowed the crop to increase in popularity and was the backbone of many fledgling towns.

As people became more established, they travelled further taking wheat with them. It was an ideal commodity – dry enough to transport, easy to transform into food and, as a seed, ideal to deliver the next crop. Soon wheat was being grown all over the world and can now be found inside the Arctic Circle, on the Equator and at heights above 4,500 metres.

In 1960 the average world wheat crop yielded 1.1 tonnes/hectare. Jump forward nearly 60 years and the average has jumped three-fold. The world record wheat yield is held by a New Zealander at 16.8 tonnes/hectare, with many farmers regularly hitting yields of 10 tonnes/hectare.

The yield gains have been achieved through a combination of improved agronomy, plant breeding, fertilisation and crop protection measures. A new era of genetic technology and precision farming means that further gains will deliver even higher yields, more nutritionally-rich crops and more targeted use of inputs.

Wheat is very important to ADAMA who provides products for the crop in all major wheat growing regions of the world. Increasingly it is taking a holistic approach to wheat protection with Integrated Disease Management programs in place, which combine chemical, biological and cultural interventions to control yield-robbing diseases.

Over the last 12,000 years wheat has played an essential role in human development and will continue to do so for many centuries to come – it is truly a crop that belongs to the world.

Wheat facts

  • Wheat is the mostly widely grown crop in the world, accounting for 220 million hectares¹
  • The global production of wheat has increased by 160% in the last 50 years to 772 million tonnes¹
  • At 185 million tonnes a year, wheat is the largest traded crop in the world²
  • The world’s top five wheat producers are China (135m tonnes) India (98m tonnes) Russia (85m tonnes) USA (48m tonnes) and France (37m tonnes).¹
  • The world’s longest running experiment is a wheat trial in the UK run by Rothamsted Research which began in 1843³.



³ Rothamsted Research

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