Our View, as Scientists, of the Grains We Grow and Use

Main Article Content



Grain production worldwide (annually 3.5 million tonnes) is equivalent to over one kilogram per person per day, accounting for over half of the energy and protein consumption in our food supply. In addition, grains provide animal feed, fuel, fibre, fats, brewed fluids and industrial uses. As consumers, we view the beneficial end-products from the bounty of grain. As scientists, we view the disciplines contributing to the many stages of the Grain Chain: breeding and genetics, agricultural production, and food technology, thereby providing expertise relevant to manipulation of each of the molecular stages – DNA (genome), mRNA (transcriptome), polypeptides (proteome), functional proteins (e.g., enzymes) and the range of molecules of general grain composition. Taxonomically, there are many grain species, offering a diversity of raw materials for processing to suit consumer needs. As scientists, we are working to adapt present and future grain species to provide improved nutritional benefits and decreased dietary intolerances (e.g., allergies and coeliac disease). The rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have the potential to raise yields of grain due to ‘carbon fertiliser’, but the further consequences may include changes in the nutrient composition of grains. There is now promise for people with coeliac disease with the development of low-gluten wheat and barley, so that beers can be provided that are suitable for people that cannot tolerate ‘normal’ beers. New technologies, such as gene editing, offer new tools for plant breeders to innovate and provide us, as consumers, with new grain products.  

Article Details