FFAR Grant Increases Dietary Fiber in Wheat Crop



  • Health-Agriculture Nexus

WASHINGTON (November 13, 2020) –Diets lacking fiber are linked to health concerns such as colon cancer and heart diseases; yet, Americans only consume 30 percent of the recommended daily amount of fiber. One way to increase fiber consumption is to produce wheat varieties that contain more fiber. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $479,997 Seeding Solutions grant to the University of California, Davis to increase the dietary fiber content in wheat products. Bay State Milling, California Wheat Commission and LimaGrain Cereal Seeds provided matching funds for a total investment of $959,997.

A small increase in fiber content in refined flour products can translate into a significant boost in the public’s consumption of dietary fiber. By developing wholesome food with more fiber and the same great taste, we can lower the incidence of preventable, diet-related diseases. Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Refined wheat flour, commonly known as all-purpose flour, is more popular than whole wheat flour in most industrialized countries, but lower in fiber. To increase fiber in refined flour, University of California, Davis researchers, led by Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky, are investigating ways to increase wheat dietary fiber using modified starch synthesis enzymes. The first generation of wheat varieties with increased dietary fiber in the plant’s starch showed reduced grain yield, making the grain more costly for consumers.

Dr. Dubcovsky’s team is developing a second generation of wheat varieties with high fiber in the refined flour but with a higher grain yield. Using genetic tools and molecular markers the researchers are identifying genes responsible for wheat yield, quality and fiber content. With this information, the researchers are testing combinations of wheat genetics, environmental conditions and growing practices that encourage high-yield and high-fiber crops.

“Most of the refined flour is starch, so the trick is to hide the fiber in the starch,” said Dr. Dubcovsky. “We increased the relative amount of ‘resistant-starch,’ which is not digested in the small intestine and works as dietary fiber. We are now combining modern and traditional breeding methods to improve the grain yield of the high-resistant-starch varieties, to make this healthy product more affordable to consumers.”

Ultimately, the researchers are encouraging fiber consumption by developing productive high-fiber wheat varieties with higher yields and lower costs, while maintaining flavor and quality. This research offers consumers a healthy alternative to refined products.

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Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

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