Wheat (Triticum spp.) is a grass, originally from the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide.
In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize (784 million tons) and rice (651 million tons). Wheat grain is a staple food used to make flour for leavened, flat and steamed breads, biscuits, cookies, cakes, breakfast cereal, pasta, noodles, couscous and for fermentation to make beer, other alcoholic beverages, or biofuel. Wheat is planted to a limited extent as a forage crop for livestock, and its straw can be used as a construction material for roofing thatch.
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Wheat has been cultivated domestically at least since 9,000 B.C. and probably earlier. Domesticated Einkorn wheat at Nevalı Çori—40 miles (64 km) northwest of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey—has been dated to 9,000 B.C. However evidence for the exploitation of wild barley has been dated to 23,000 B.C. and some say this is also true of pre-domesticated wheat.
Spikelets of a hulled wheat, einkornWheat genetics is more complicated than that of most other domesticated species. Some wheat species are diploid, with two sets of chromosomes, but many are stable polyploids, with four sets of chromosomes (tetraploid) or six (hexaploid).
Einkorn wheat (T. monococcum) is diploid.
Most tetraploid wheats (e.g. emmer and durum wheat) are derived from wild emmer, T. dicoccoides. Wild emmer is the result of a hybridization between two diploid wild grasses, T. urartu and a wild goatgrass such as Aegilops searsii or Ae. speltoides. The hybridization that formed wild emmer occurred in the wild, long before domestication.
Hexaploid wheats evolved in farmers’ fields. Either domesticated emmer or durum wheat hybridized with yet another wild diploid grass (Aegilops tauschii) to make the hexaploid wheats, spelt wheat and bread wheat.