"Whether or not we succeed in pushing the rock up the hill, there is meaning in the
journey, not in the hope that one time we'll be able to shed the rock forever and live
in a perfect world. In the end, we stay
the course in our everyday actions - shouldering
the burden, working in community, speaking truth to power, and refusing to join forces
with the pestilence."
Mary-Wynne Ashford, M.D.
"Staying the Course", an essay published in:
The Impossible Will Take a Little While -
Basic Books - 2004
"More foods are made with wheat than any other cereal grain."
"Wonderful wheat. In American diets, wheat is the top grain. Not only is it the most plentiful - the wheat belt stretches
over the middle of the United States and we export as much as we consume - it's one of the most versatile grains. What gives
wheat its unique baking value is the protein gluten, the elastic substance that sticks together, allowing bread to rise and
pasta to hold its shape during cooking."
Wheat is basic to feeding humans world wide. It is high in nutritional value and lends itself to use in a very
wide variety of foods.
It is plentiful and accessible for use world wide.
In the U.S.,
grains like corn and soybeans are fed to cattle which in turn are fed to humans. This
chain of actions drives an enormous agricultural monoculture for cattle feed
while eroding agricultural diversity and sustainability.
Wheat production has likewise fallen into a vicious cycle of intensified fertilization and irrigation
along with plant breeding to drive yields to a maximum. Much of the world now depends on this
high output monoculture approach for its basic nutrition. This kind of strict monoculture approach eventually
depletes soils and water and makes crops vulnerable to changing climate patterns.
Wheat, being a grass, is adaptable to cross-breeding with similar native grasses to produce a prairie-like
perennial plant with deep roots, climate hardiness and high nutrient grain. An approach of this type is under
development at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. If such a program succeeds, it will contribute positively
to land and water conservation and provide a revised crop model by which farmers may gain higher profits and
sustain productivity for coming generations.
Web Link - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Web Link - FAO of UN - lists of information about wheat
Web Link - FAO of UN - publications about wheat
back to top.
"It's misleading, if not impossible, to rank grains. Their relative value depends
on what nutrients you are looking for. Is one nutrient more important than another?
Is fiber more important than protein? Maybe, if you're a senior citizen, but not if
you're a child. Do you judge nutritional value by nutrients per ounce, or nutrients per
calorie? When you see any rating system for food, take it with a grain of salt and remember
that variety is an important key to healthy eating."
"In spite of these difficulties,
we decided to give it a try and rate the twelve most common grains
according to the following nutrients: protein, fiber, iron, zinc, folic
acid, vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and calcium. If you assign
one point for each of these nutrients, the ratings come out as follows:"
Total Nutrient Points
(highest to lowest)
4. Wild rice
9. Whole wheat
10. Brown rice
11. White rice
(grams per serving)
3. Whole wheat
8. Wild Rice
11. Brown Rice
12. White Rice
(grams per serving)
4. Wild rice
8. Whole wheat
11. Brown Rice
12. White Rice
"Even though nutritionally amaranth would rank as the greatest grain, overall the top grain in our book is whole
wheat. Even though other grains may have slightly more nutrients, wheat is a whole lot more useful in a whole lot
more foods. Whole wheat comes out as top grain."
Web Link - about wheat - www.askdrsears.com
back to top.
Wheat is the most widely grown cereal crop in the world, with an ever increasing demand. It plays a
fundamental role in food security, and a major challenge is to meet the additional requirements with
new cultivars and improved cropping technologies.
Though North America has 53,027,660 acres (82,856 square miles) devoted to wheat production, its overall output ranks third in the world
behind Asia and Europe. In these figures Asia includes China and Europe includes Russia, both large producers
but also large importers.
"Wheat is one of the most important food sources in the developing world.
"Sustainable intensification of
irrigated wheat requires an adequate and balanced use of inputs.
"Differences in grain prices throughout the world are the result of surplus or deficit production in various
"In general, grain prices are lower in the inland producing regions and higher in grain-deficit, densely
populated and port regions."
There are two kinds of price for wheat, the cash price that a farmer can get at a local grain
elevator and the futures prices at commodity exchanges. One is the price today and the other
is a guaranteed price at some future point; up to a year and a half in the future. Pricing is a
combination of supply and demand and speculative investment forces.
For the most part farmers wish to sell some substantial part of their wheat soon
after harvest to cover months of costs. It is perhaps becoming
more common for farmers to "hedge" by participating in the wheat futures market.
This can provide a way to "lock" a sale price some months into the future. If the cash price declines the
futures may compensate for their losses in the cash market.
It has been reported in this newsletter before that "In 1929, prior to the
market crash, the per bushel price (what the farmer could sell it for) was $3.50 for wheat
... On February 28, 2005 the market price of a bushel of wheat was $4.03..." One still wonders how or
perhaps why small farm operations survive.
The futures market for wheat, as profiled below, is no less significant in the agriculture world than
the stock market is for the business world.
The graph above shows increasing production
leading to decreasing commodity futures prices for the future months of 2005. If there were an
unexpected heat wave next week
which may reduce the output in the coming summer months the graph would change direction and
futures prices would
increase for the remaining months of 2005.
This is a wheat futures projection chart for 2005 U.S wheat published by CBOT (Chicago Board of Trade)
Here it is assumed that weather will be favorable and production will be increasing over that of 2004.
Wheat Futures Basics
The essence of a futures market is in its name. It involves a standardized contract
to buy or sell a commodity, such as wheat,
at a future delivery date as opposed to the present time.
The volume of grain covered by a futures contract is specified in each contract. Both
Chicago and Kansas City Board of Trade grain and oilseed futures contracts cover 5,000 bushels."
For example, if the wheat futures price for July wheat is $3 per bushel, an investment of $300 paid to purchase
one July wheat futures contract will "control" the rights to 5000 bushels ($15,000) worth of wheat, a ration of 1:50.
If the July wheat futures price changes to $3.10 per bushel the next day, the new contract value is 5,000 bushels
times $3.10 or $15,500 and thus the contract owner has made a $500 profit on a $300 investment.
In the world of commodity trades
the loss of value can be equally quick and dramatic.
Grain futures information resources
Web Link - Intro to Commodities - Penn. State Univ.
Web Link - Intro to Futures - Kansas State Department of Agriculture Economics
Web Link - Intro to futures - Texas Agricultural Extension Service - pdf
Web Link - Example of CBOT listing
Web Link - Infinity Futures Trading