“Anatolia, where the history of wheat has gone as far back as no other place in the world, is also the center of the genetic diversity of wild wheat species. Of the 22 wild wheat species incident to the Middle East, West Asia, and the Mediterranean regions, 14 species still exist in Anatolia today. Spreading all corners of Turkey, these species not only lead to scientific studies on the breeding, distribution, and evolution of wheat, but also contribute to genetic development efforts to improve wheat quality.”
The first agricultural product people think of is wheat when Anatolian is mentioned. Besides economical value, the wheat has a social, cultural, and archaeological value in Anatolia. Göbekli Tepe, which is located near Şanlıurfa, has the most important clues of the transition where hunter-gatherer people took their first steps towards permanent settlement in 11 thousand years ago. Wheat, which has many variations with the contribution of genetic science, was first grown around Göbekli Tepe according to the findings. The wheat’s main homeland is Göbekli Tepe.
In terms of access to foods in nature, people located in Anatolia and Mesopotamia was luckier than people living elsewhere. This region was the center of the wild ancestors of many grains, especially wheat and barley. Initially, people collected these two grains from nature; later, they gradually began to cultivate them. This allowed people to move into settlements and start farming. Nearly ten thousand years ago, the villages established by the first agricultural people began to be observed in Southeastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia.
Over the next 1500 years, wheat cultivation gradually spread to Central Anatolia. Our ancestors that settled in Aşıklı Höyük (Aksaray), Can Hasan III (Karaman) and Çatalhöyük (Konya-Çumra), which are among the oldest settlements of Anatolia in the Neolithic period, started to grow wild wheat and barley. The remaining wheat recovered during excavations revealed the indispensability of this plant for humans.
The effects of wheat, which has a long history and played a key role in the nutrition of ancient people, on the social and cultural life in Anatolia were also very diverse. Wheat, which has been embroidered on rock paintings for thousands of years and the subject of kilim patterns, poems, and epics, has come forward as one of the most important elements of Anatolian folklore. Indeed, almost all civilizations regarded the wheatear as a symbol of fertility, abundance, and a sacred figure.
Anatolia, where the history of wheat has gone as far back as no other place in the world, is also the center of the genetic diversity of wild wheat species. Of the 22 wild wheat species to the Middle East, West Asia, and the Mediterranean regions, 14 species still exist in Anatolia today. Spreading all corners of our country, these species not only lead to scientific studies on the breeding, distribution, and evolution of wheat, but also contribute to genetic development efforts to improve wheat quality.
3 THOUSAND YEARS OF WHEAT WAS FOUND FROM THE EXCAVATIONS
Two months ago, another development has emerged that proved the relation between Anatolia and wheat. Excavations conducted in the region that is named as Norik Höyük 2 located at Solhan district of Bingöl province has unearthed pots from Byzantine and Urartu era that has the remaining of cereal that was carbonized. These cereal traces are similar to the wheat kernel. It is reported that these traces will be sent to the United States and Hacettepe University in Ankara for examination.
In today’s Turkey, most of the area is devoted to wheat cultivation. In recent years, the importance of wheat has increased even more when food safety and human health have come to the fore. Bread, which has been consumed for thousands of years, is still a very important food item almost everywhere in the world. The reasons why bread is so important are that it is easy and inexpensive to reach, has a filling specialty and high nutritional value and has a neutral taste.
When baked goods are mentioned, it is understood that the product is ready for consumption or the product is pretreated and can be consumed after some additional process and they are from cereal flour. Muffins, cakes, pies, tarts, phyllo dough, various oily and milky muffins, pastry, wafers, salty and additive cookies, ready-made pastry, rusks, biscuits and similar products are included in this group.
Considering Turkey, in terms of economic value, cultivated land, production amount, wheat that is a basic raw material for various products such as bread, biscuits, pasta, bulgur, and semolina, which are necessary to feed people, are cultivated in all provinces, except Rize. Turkey is recognized as a country of wheat; in fact, the main ingredient of agricultural production is wheat. It is cultivated in the largest part of agricultural land, and the majority of the farmers are engaged in wheat production. However, despite this characteristic, Turkey has not taken the proper place for wheat production for many years. The reason behind this is low productivity.
WHEAT GAINS MORE IMPORTANCE
Today, wheat is one of the most important herbal nutrient sources for Turkey and the entire world. Wheat has the largest cultivation area in Turkey among cereals. Turkey is among the countries that could be self-sufficient in terms of wheat production. However, as the population increases rapidly with each passing year, wheat production should be increased at the same rate or more. Wheat cultivation area declined rapidly over the last 20 years in Turkey; while it was 9.8 million hectares in 1998, it decreased to 6.9 million hectares in 2019. So it decreased by 30 percent.
Our greatest chance as a country is that we close the gap with increasing yield despite the decrease in planting areas. Turkey needs 25 million tons of wheat annually. Refugees and tourists need 20 million tons of wheat. Turkey exports 5 million tons of wheat to abroad as flour, pasta, semolina, bulgur, and bakery products. However, because of input cost and farmers’ inclination to cultivate alternative products, the wheat production continues to decline.
Experts claim that the production can be increased from 20 million tons to 35-40 million tons of wheat by taking some precautions. If we increase our annual output from 280 kilograms per decare to 500 kilograms, this corresponds to 35 million tons of production. It’s not hard to do. It is important to determine which wheat is to be planted and to direct the farmer to do it; then the harvest must be bought from the farmer at good prices.
THE FORMULA TO INCREASE THE PRODUCTION
Necati Polat, Commodity Wholesale Committee Chairman of İzmir Commodity Exchange, spelled out the precautions to be taken: “Fertilization and drug products must be local. Farmers should be supported in this because farmers do not use enough fertilization and drug because of cost. This decreases the yield and increases the farmers’ input cost. When we do this, wheat will become more attractive and profitable for the farmer.
Every year, 4.5 million hectares of land is left to fallow in Turkey. Assuming that the country’s total production area is 18 million hectares, this area accounts for 25 percent of the total production area. The fallow area must be brought into production and become arable every year. It is important to take the necessary measures and make the necessary investments. In terms of being a strategic country in wheat, deficiencies must be eliminated. If we do not take the necessary precautions, Turkey can be forced to import these products, and we can become dependent on wheat and other agricultural products.
We examined Turkey Statistics Institute’s report on the ratio of production to meet cereal consumption. Accordingly, the ratio of production to meet the consumption of cereals in 2018 is at 97.2 percent in Turkey. This figure was 98 percent in 2017. Generally, Turkey meets its cereal needs at 97.2 percent. When we examined this year’s figure, we realize contraction in wheat. For now, Turkey is self-sufficient in wheat; but the country reached its limit values. After this line, it is a red line and it means dangerous for our country. Turkey should not be dependent on other countries for wheat and maize. So, the necessary precautions must be taken.”
TWO LOCAL WHEAT VARIETIES FOR BREAD AND PASTA
In terms of producing local wheat seed, two new varieties for bread and pasta have been produced that have high protein and fertility and are resistant to diseases. In the rehabilitation works carried out at the Ege Agricultural Research Institute, two new domestic wheat varieties with high yields and high energy values were registered. They are named “Meltem” and “Poyraz.” Rıza Ünsal, the Wheat Manager of Ege Agricultural Research Institute, told that thanks to rehabilitation works carried out since 1963, 15 bread wheat, 10 pasta wheat, and 1 triticale variety have been registered to Seed Registration and Certification Center and began to be used for production.
Ünsal said that they aimed to have a high yield and meet the expectation of industrialists and final consumers in their rehabilitation works, adding that they utilize from materials acquired from gene banks and international organizations to interbreed them with local varieties. He told that thanks to interbreeding, they transmit the required properties such as being resistant to disease and productivity to new species, adding that they have good results so far. “The average wheat yield of Turkey was 100 kilograms back in the 1950s. Recently, this yield was increased to 300 kilograms. This is the result of rehabilitation works. This result cannot be achieved with the existing production materials,” he said.
MELTEM AND POYRAZ
Rıza Ünsal said that two new varieties have been registered this year. “One of them is bread wheat. It is Meltem. In terms of bread, it has a high yield. It has high energy and protein as required by industrialists. Meltem’s water-lifting capacity is very good. Its protein value is good. The average yield is around 800 kilos; in good conditions, this can be increased to a thousand kilos. Its height is around 100 centimeters. Generally, tall kinds of wheat lie down when rainfall is high, which deteriorates yield and quality. It is resistant to rust disease. The second is pasta wheat – Poyraz. It has high values in terms of durum properties. It has the characteristics that pasta producers and bulgur want in terms of semolina color. It is resistant to rust diseases, has high protein, average yield potential is good; it can increase to 950 kilograms,” he said. Ünsal added that these two will be presented to farmers, saying that these two can be utilized at regions where wheat is planted for summer periods particularly the Ege region.
COVER STORY INDEX
- More profitable to plant wheat for bread and pasta
“This year, the next year and the years ahead will be more advantageous for wheat. The producers will make a more profitable investment especially if they weight more in planting bread and durum wheat” Ahmet Güldal, the general manager of Turkish Grain Board (TMO), said.
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- Turkey can be self-sufficient in durum wheat
Piero Mirra, General Manager of Barilla Food, shared details of contractual and sustainable agricultural projects at the panel of ‘Sustainability Problems and Solutions in Turkish Agriculture.’ He said that pasta cannot be mentioned without durum wheat. He said that although Turkey needs 4,5 million tons of durum wheat annually, the yield will be around 2,5 million tons in 2019. “This will require substantial export. It is challenging when you think that Turkey is one of most important countries in wheat and pasta production in the world. We can make Turkey self-sufficient again if we implement right methods via inter-institutional cooperation,” he said.
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- Belgian La Lorraine uses Anatolian flour
Burak Deniz, General Manager of La Lorraine Turkey
Belgian bakery brand La Lorraine, continues to invest in Turkey. The company, which is offering bread, croissants, and donuts produced in its 58.000 m2 facility with a daily capacity of 80 tons in Manisa which was put into service in 2016 to the Turkish market which it got into five years ago, started to export the traditional Turkish pastries to the world.
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