Pasta niche markets to be fostered by Australian high-protein wheat research

Australian researchers are hoping to produce new wheat varieties that contain higher levels of protein and extra ‘functionality’, without requiring additional fertiliser. They say their research will allow wheat growers in Australia access to non-traditional markets.

The research is being funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) with the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), and is being conducted in conjunction with Murdoch University, in Perth.

Currently, Australian growers who produce wheat with higher protein levels receive a premium for achieving harder wheat grades. Harder wheat grades are used to make products such as yellow alkaline noodles, pan bread, flat bread and instant noodles.

DAFWA senior molecular geneticist based at Murdoch University, Wujun Ma, said key aims of the project were to help Australian growers maintain their global competitiveness and increase their profitability by improving protein levels and functionality without the necessity of high nitrogen inputs.

Novel Italian wheat lines containing a new gluten protein have been imported into Australia so the genetic material can be crossed into Australian bread wheat varieties.

Dr Ma said that common Australian wheat varieties contain a maximum of five gluten protein units. The extra gluten protein gene from Italy will be crossed into Australian bread wheat varieties so that Australian wheat cultivars contain a total of six gluten protein units – leading to a higher percentage of functional protein in wheat end products made from Australian wheat.

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