Wheat Quality Lab provides breeders with critical information
Kansas State University researchers met with representatives from the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas Wheat Alliance, and Kansas Crop Improvement Association, on Feb. 17 to 18. They presented updates on current research projects and outlined requests for future project funding.
The researchers each gave a 10-minute presentation, followed by questions. Kansas wheat producers, through the two-penny per bushel wheat assessment, fund approximately $1 million in research each year. Many of the projects are continuing, multi-year projects.
One of these continuing projects is the Kansas Wheat Quality Lab, housed at Throckmorton Hall on the Kansas State University campus.
The Wheat Quality Lab provides Kansas wheat breeders with timely quality data that will augment their selection of experimental wheat varieties.
Wheat breeders at Kansas State University continually work to improve the agronomic traits of Kansas wheat varieties. In addition to agronomic traits, successful varieties should be marketable. Rebecca Miller, director of the Wheat Quality Laboratory, and student employees provide evaluations of physical and chemical kernel characteristics, milling yield and flour and baking properties of promising experimental wheat lines.
The mixograph is used to determine mixing time and how much water will be needed for bread baking.
Because the mixograph requires only a few grams of wheat and provides a significant amount of data about the variety, Miller and her students are able to run these tests early in the breeding process. When K-State wheat breeder Allan Fritz sends samples to the Wheat Quality Lab, he is able to eliminate about half of the potential varieties based on the data from the mixograph. Those varieties that move on through the process come back to the lab in a couple years when there is enough flour to conduct a baking test.
“I think of all the tests we do, the protein and probably the baking volume are the best indicators of quality and the most important that breeders are using for their selections,” said Miller.
End-use quality and agronomic performance are both important considerations when selecting wheat varieties for commercial production. When producers are choosing between varieties that have similar agronomic characteristics and potential grain yield, they should select those with better end-use quality to improve the overall quality and marketability of Kansas wheat.
The Wheat Quality Lab also tests wheats for the Wheat Quality Council. These samples have been in a breeder’s program for 10-12 years, and are the premier lines that are either very close to release or have already been released. These tests are open to all public and private breeders who may submit a check sample, which is the baseline or control sample, and one or two premier varieties. New varieties should meet or exceed the check. The samples are sent to several labs which use their own procedures to test how the flour performs.
Miller attended the Wheat Quality Council annual meeting in Kansas City on Feb. 19 to 20 to present wheat quality data and to promote the use of Kansas wheat. Members of the Wheat Quality Council include millers, bakers, grain traders, seed firms, allied companies and others.
Visit for more information about the Kansas Wheat Quality Lab, including screening varieties for their tortilla making qualities and a proposed new project on genetic mapping of genes that control bread baking quality.