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Grains to Feed and Fuel our World

By: , Posted on: December 9, 2015

Do you eat, wear clothes or drive a vehicle?

If you eat food, you are sure to be eating products from grains – such as wheat, rice, soy, corn, canola. These are the main source of our foods – and don’t just think of bread and beer; think cooking oil and margarine, sweeteners from starch, cookies and cakes, tortillas and bagels, and lots of snack foods.

If you eat meat, fish or poultry, these food sources were raised on grain-related fodder and forage, and finished on grain.

If you wear clothes, the cotton came from the cottonseed (also a valuable source of edible oil).

If you use paper, its smooth surface is produced by starch from grains.

If you drive a car or truck, part of your fuel comes from grains – as bioethanol or biodiesel (renewable resources).

Have you consumed your share of 1 kg grain today?

Grain production worldwide is enormous – enough to provide over a kilogram per day for each person on earth! Thus grain-producing plants are essential to life on earth. They are the primary means by which sunlight is captured via photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and thus into the wider range of the biochemicals needed by all life forms.

The summary is simple:

The sun’s energy + CO2 + H2O

Grain-bearing plants

 which provide:

Food, Fats, Fuel and Fiber for ourselves

Feed, Forage, Fodder for our animals

Food for Fish Farms

The consumer – at the end of a long line

As consumers, we rarely see more than these end-products, but they are the product of an extensive ‘grain chain’ that continues through many specialist workers:

• plant breeders, who generate grains of suitable yield and quality

• grain growers, who provide appropriate farm management

• grain handlers, who receive and classify the grain according to quality and value

• grain marketers, whose responsibility it is to identify grain consignments with qualities needed by:

• grain processors, who mill rice as the whole grain, or who mill wheat into flour, or who generate protein-rich fractions from soy

• bakers, manufacturers, general processors and retailers

• consumers, who vote with their buying power, often (mis)advised by the media, popular myths, advertisements, the internet and their friends’ chatter.

The big story of grain-based foods in four volumes

Elsevier’s Encyclopedia of Food Grains provides expert information on all these aspects of all the many grain species (cereals, legumes and oilseeds), plus all the associated science and technology. All authors of the 125+ chapters were selected for being world-renowned authorities in the respective fields. Descriptions are based on peer-reviewed publications. Draft versions of all chapters have been peer-reviewed by the editors, members of the Editorial Advisory Board and other experts.

So … does all that sound more reliable than what is offered on the internet by vested interests?

A web-based publication

Yes, it is still possible to get hard-copy of these encyclopedia volumes – four of them in this case (and they are really handsome!). But all the content is also available via web-based publication.

Are you setting up a study course of lectures on a topic related to grain-based products? Select a suitable combination of chapters as the subject matter for the lectures, provide the web sources for the students and the course is arranged.

For example, a course on canola can start with an overview of oilseeds, plus canola itself, going on through chapters on the chemistry and nutrition of lipids, the processing of oilseeds, the uses and processing of such oils, the growing, harvesting, storage, transport and breeding of canola.

All chapters include exercises for revision and questions for exploring the topic further.

Grains to Feed and Fuel our World

As its title indicates, the Encyclopedia of Food Grains concentrates on the food uses of grains, but details are also provided about the wider roles of grains, such as feed and fuel.

Worldwide, however, it is our food that is the obsession of all of us. We see our health (or otherwise) to be intimately related to our diet. Therefore nutrition is a major accent of this second edition, occupying the whole of the second volume, following the first volume’s description of the basic aspects of the world of grains. The third and fourth volumes work their ways back up the value-added grain chain to describe grain processing and production, thence to breeding and genetics.

The sequence of articles in the first edition (the Encyclopedia of Grain Science, 2004) followed an alphabetical order. In contrast, the distinct ordering of articles in the second edition assembles fundamental concepts in Volume 1 – The World of Food Grains. Moving into the later volumes, greater complexity and erudition are evident. Thus, unusual terms such as “Transcriptomics”, “Aeciospore” and “Allelopathy” are more likely to be found in later volumes than in the first. In any case, reference to the glossary and the index should help in elucidating such terms.

OK! Test yourself. Do you need access to the Encyclopedia of Food Grains?

Can you answer ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ with certainty to these statements?

• Increasing temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide promise to raise grain yields due to the carbon-fertilizer effect.

• Organic-grown grain is superior nutritionally to other grain.

• Genetically modified grain is hazardous to your health.

• What we eat today walks and talks tomorrow.

• Eat Fat-Free products and you won’t get fat.

• Food additives are all badditives!

• A gluten-free diet will cause you to miss essential nutrients.

• A gluten-free diet means that I cannot eat buckwheat.

• There are dietary imbalances in the cereal grains.

And your knowledge of taxonomy?

• Which of the following grain species is a cereal, a pseudocereal, a legume or an oilseed?

amaranth, barley, buckwheat, canola, chickpeas, coix, durum wheat, lupins, maize, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, safflower,  sorghum, soya, sunflower, teff, triticale, wheat.


About the Author

Colin W Wrigley, Honorary Professor, QAAFI, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Dr Wrigley’s 54 years in grain-science research have earned him international recognition, in the form of several international and Australian research awards. His work is described in about 600 research publications, including several patents, a series of eight books on Australian cereal varieties and many edited books. He was Editor-in-Chief of the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Grain Science (2004). His research interests have centred on the characterisation of cereal-grain proteins in relation to processing quality. In 2009, Dr Wrigley was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) “for service to primary industry, particularly to grain science as a researcher, and to the development of methods for improving wheat quality.” He is currently an Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

ecncylopedia of food grains

Publishing in January 2016, the Encyclopedia of Food Grains, Second Edition  is an in-depth and authoritative reference comprising all areas of grain science. Coverage includes everything from the genetics of grains to the commercial, economic and social aspects of this important food source. Also covered are the biology and chemistry of grains, the applied aspects of grain production and the processing of grains into various food and beverage products. With the paramount role of cereals as a global food source, this Encyclopedia is sure to become the standard reference work in the field of science. Learn more here.

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Food Science & Nutrition

The field of food science is highly interdisciplinary, spanning areas of chemistry, engineering, biology, and many more. Researchers in these areas achieve fundamental advances in our understanding of agriculture, nutrition, and food-borne illness, and develop new technologies, like food processing methods and packaging material. Against a backdrop of global issues of food supply and regulation, this important work is supported by Elsevier’s catalog of books, eBooks, and journals in food science, considered essential resources for students, instructors, and health professionals worldwide. Learn more about our Food Science and Nutrition books here.