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Staple Grains See Record Harvest Levels in 2016

Image via Flickr kinnia

Staple grains like wheat and rice were produced in record numbers in 2016. This high level of
production has helped stabilize the global food market and keep the world food import bill low.
This is good news for consumers who have faced increasingly higher prices for staple grains
over the last few years.

A Look at Wheat and Rice Production Levels

In 2016, wheat production levels were up 1.5 percent and rice production levels were up 1.3
percent. Other crops, such as soybeans, sugar, and cassava, also saw higher yields. This trend is
expected to continue in 2017 with an all-time high of 742.4 million tons of wheat and 497.8
million tons of rice.

The increased crop production for staple grains will keep consumer prices low and inventory
levels high. For instance, in the United States, wheat and rice cereals probably won’t see a price
increase because wheat and rice levels are at their lowest price since 2008. Economically
vulnerable countries won’t see the lower prices as quickly, though.
Wheat production is up around the world, but India, the U.S., and the Russian Federation are the
largest exporters of these commodities. Farmers are finding more and more ways to increase
production levels to keep up with demand. Several advances in farming, such as robotics and
genetic research, have contributed to the increased production rates.

Research in Wheat Growing Methods and Best Practices

Wheat fails to thrive when exposed to high temperatures, which is why hot weather is one of the
greatest challenges that wheat farmers face. Heat severely affects their crop yields. However,
Harold Trick and Allan Fritz from Kansas State University have found a way to increase wheat’s
heat tolerance.

The Kansas State University researchers studied the soluble starch synthesis of wheat and found
that the proteins in wheat deactivate at high temperatures, much like an overheating car. Other
plants, such as rice, perform much better in heat. Trick and Fritz isolated the heat tolerance gene
in rice and injected it into wheat, with the intention of growing wheat with a higher heat
tolerance. Growing wheat with the added rice gene has helped increase yields and profits for
farmers. This is one reason that record levels of wheat grew in 2016.

What to Expect From Wheat and Rice in the Future

It’s likely that wheat and rice production levels will continue to increase in the coming years. It’s
difficult to make a definitive prediction about inventory levels and prices, however, since crops
are subject to natural disasters and other events that can affect crop yields. Pending any major
events, consumers will continue to enjoy lower prices for wheat and rice products in 2017.
As farmers see higher yields and greater profits, they are likely to invest in technology that
improves their efficiency. Agrobots and genetic research are quickly becoming essential to
farmers’ success. American farmers tend to be very proactive about improving their farming
technology, but farmers in other parts of the world still have far to go.

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