Kinds of Wheat

Species and Varieties

There are about 30 species of wheat, divided into more than 30,000 varieties. Plant breeders create new varieties by hybridization (crossbreeding between two varieties of the same species). The hybrid's parents are chosen for desirable qualities such as milling quality or resistance to cold or disease.

The most common species of cultivated wheat include:

Club Wheat

(Triticum compactum), a dwarf species with short spikes, small kernels, and a low gluten content. It is used for making pastry flour. Club wheat will grow in poor soil. It is cultivated mainly in the western United States and Canada and in mountainous areas of Europe.

Club wheatClub wheat is a dwarf species with a low gluten content.
Common, or Bread, Wheat

(T. aestivum), the leading commercial species, cultivated in temperate and subtropical areas around the world. It has a high gluten content. There are hundreds of varietiessome bearded, others beardless; some hard-kerneled, others soft-kerneled. Common wheat is used for making bread, pastries, breakfast cereals, alcoholic drinks, and many other products. Some varieties are used for livestock feed.

Durum

(T. durum), a bearded, drought-resistant species with hard kernels and a high gluten content. It is used chiefly for making pasta. Durum is grown in many parts of the world.

Einkorn

(T. monococcum), a hardy, bearded species. It produces one kernel to each spikelet. Einkorn was the first cultivated wheat and is the ancestor of most species of wheat grown today. It will grow in poor soil. Einkorn is grown mainly in the mountains of southern Europe as livestock feed.

Emmer

(T. dicoccum), a bearded species cultivated mainly in Europe and Asia as livestock feed and a source of pastry flour.

Persian Wheat

(T. persicum), a species cultivated in the Caucasus.

Polish Wheat

(T. polonicum), a bearded species used for making bread. It is grown in parts of Europe and in northern Africa.

Poulard, or Rivet, Wheat

(T. turgidum), a species used mainly for making pastries and pasta. It is also used for livestock feed. It is grown in many parts of the world.

Shot Wheat

(T. sphaerococcum), a drought-resistant dwarf species grown in India.

Spelt

(T. spelta), a species grown mainly in Germany and northern Spain to make pastries. It is also used for livestock feed.

Market Classifications

Some wheat-growing countries have set up rigid official government standards for wheat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes 7 commercial classes and 15 subclasses. These groups are net directly related to botanical classifications, but are based on the color, texture, size, and shape of the kernel. The seven classes are: hard red spring; hard red winter; soft red winter; amber durum; red durum; white; and mixed. Each class is grown in particular regions of the United States. The Department of Agriculture recognizes six wheat growing regions. These regions are shown in the map below, along with the major class (or classes) of wheat grown in them. In Canada, the classes of wheat grown are the same as those grown in the United States.