Brief History

Wheat was originally a wild grass that was eaten as far back as 10,000 BC. The wheat grew wild in the Middle East, in an area called Mesopotamia (Iraq), and people would pick the plant when they needed it. However as the population grew and food became more scarce, people relied on wheat and other edible plants to survive. Land was cleared and crops were grown. Over time wheat became easier to grow, as seeds from the best plants would be used to produce further crops. The wheat was used to make porridge and breads. Wheat supplied people with a stable food supply and it wasn't long before farmers were selling their extra wheat to other communities and countries. By 4,000 BC wheat farming had spread to Asia, Europe and North Africa.The Egyptians were the first to make yeast-leavened breads which meant that they could make raised loaves of bread. The discovery was believed to have occurred between 2,000 and 3,000 BC.

It is also thought that the workers who built the Egyptian pyramids were paid in bread.

China began growing wheat by around 1500 BC and used it to make porridge and noodles.

Rome formed the first bakers guild in 150 BC.

The harvesting of wheat was originally done by hand, using scythes or sickles. In 1831, Cyrus McCormick, invented the mechanical reaper which significantly increased production. A farmer could cut about 8 acres (3.24ha) of wheat a day using the mechanical reaper instead of the usual 2 acres (0.81ha) a day using a scythe. This invention lead the way for the mechanisation of the industry.

Wheat is a unique grain as it is the only cereal grain that contains enough gluten content to produce a raised loaf of bread without having to be mixed with another grain.

Wheat is grown on every continent except Antarctica and is the world's most widely cultivated plant.

Wheat was first grown in Australia in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney and a convict by the name of James Ruse was believed to be the first wheat farmer in Australia. Ruse arrived on the First Fleet and was one of the first people to receive a land grant in the colony. The land Ruse received was in Paramatta and he grew wheat and maize.

Today wheat is Australia's largest crop and the third largest agricultural export earner. Australian wheat production from the 2003-2004 harvest reached a record 25.2 million tonnes. This followed a drought affected harvest the previous year (2002/2003) that produced 9.7 million tonnes. Asian markets such as China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea account for nearly 50% of Australia's wheat export. The Australian Wheat Board (AWB) handles all of Australia's wheat exports but maybe not for long!


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