Wheat is one of the most consumed cereal grains worldwide and makes up a substantial part of the human diet. Although government-supported dietary guidelines in Europe and the U.S.A advise individuals to eat adequate amounts of (whole) grain products per day, cereal grains contain “anti-nutrients,” such as wheat gluten and wheat lectin, that in humans can elicit dysfunction and disease. In this review we discuss evidence from in vitro, in vivo and human intervention studies that describe how the consumption of wheat, but also other cereal grains, can contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases by increasing intestinal permeability and initiating a pro-inflammatory immune response.
Dietary recommendations emphasize increased consumption of fruit, vegetables, and whole grain cereals for prevention of chronic disease.
Starch grain, phytolith and cereal bran fragments were analyzed in order to identify the food remains including cakes, dumplings, as well as porridge unearthed at the Astana Cemeteries in Turpan of Xinjiang, China. The results suggest that the cakes were made from Triticum aestivum while the dumplings were made from Triticum aestivum, along with Setaria italica. The ingredients of the porridge remains emanated from Panicum miliaceum. Moreover, direct macrobotantical evidence of the utilization of six cereal crops, such as Triticum aestivum, Hordeum vulgare var. coeleste, Panicum miliaceum, Setaria italica, Cannabis sativa, and Oryza sativa in the Turpan region during the Jin and Tang dynasties (about 3(rd) to 9(th) centuries) is also presented. All of these cereal crops not only provided food for the survival of the indigenous people, but also spiced up their daily life.
Agricultural sustainability may represent the greatest encumbrance to increasing food production. On the other hand, as a component of sustainability, replacement of chemical fertilizers by bio-fertilizers has the potential to lower costs for farmers, to increase yields, and to mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions and pollution of water and soil. Rhizobia and plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) have been broadly used in agriculture, and advances in our understanding of plant-bacteria interactions have been achieved; however, the use of signaling molecules to enhance crop performance is still modest. In this study, we evaluated the effects of concentrated metabolites (CM) from two strains of rhizobia—Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens USDA 110T (BD1) and Rhizobium tropici CIAT 899T (RT1)—at two concentrations of active compounds (10–8 and 10–9 M)—on the performances of two major plant-microbe interactions, of Bradyrhizobium spp.-soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) and Azospirillum brasilense-maize (Zea mays L.). For soybean, one greenhouse and two field experiments were performed and effects of addition of CM from the homologous and heterologous strains, and of the flavonoid genistein were investigated. For maize, three field experiments were performed to examine the effects of CM from RT1. For soybean, compared to the treatment inoculated exclusively with Bradyrhizobium, benefits were achieved with the addition of CM-BD1; at 10–9 M, grain yield was increased by an average of 4.8%. For maize, the best result was obtained with the addition of CM-RT1, also at 10–9 M, increasing grain yield by an average of 11.4%. These benefits might be related to a combination of effects attributed to secondary compounds produced by the rhizobial strains, including exopolysaccharides (EPSs), plant hormones and lipo-chitooligosaccharides (LCOs). The results emphasize the biotechnological potential of using secondary metabolites of rhizobia together with inoculants containing both rhizobia and PGPR to improve the growth and yield of grain crops.
Starch is the main storage carbohydrate in higher plants. Although several enzymes and regulators for starch biosynthesis have been characterized, a complete regulatory network for starch synthesis in cereal seeds remains elusive. Here, we report the identification and characterization of the rice Brittle1 (OsBT1) gene, which is expressed specifically in the developing endosperm. The osbt1 mutant showed a white-core endosperm and a significantly lower grain weight than the wild-type. The formation and development of compound starch granules in osbt1 was obviously defective: the amyloplast was disintegrated at early developmental stages and the starch granules were disperse and not compound in the endosperm cells in the centre region of osbt1 seeds. The total starch content and amylose content was decreased and the physicochemical properties of starch were altered. Moreover, the degree of polymerization (DP) of amylopectin in osbt1 was remarkably different from that of wild-type. Map-based cloning of OsBT1 indicated that it encodes a putatively ADP-glucose transporter. OsBT1 coded protein localizes in the amyloplast envelope membrane. Furthermore, the expression of starch synthesis related genes was also altered in the osbt1 mutant. These findings indicate that OsBT1 plays an important role in starch synthesis and the formation of compound starch granules.
Weeds are currently present in a wide range of ecosystems worldwide. Although the beginning of their evolution is largely unknown, researchers assumed that they developed in tandem with cultivation since the appearance of agricultural habitats some 12,000 years ago. These rapidly-evolving plants invaded the human disturbed areas and thrived in the new habitat. Here we present unprecedented new findings of the presence of “proto-weeds” and small-scale trial cultivation in Ohalo II, a 23,000-year-old hunter-gatherers' sedentary camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel. We examined the plant remains retrieved from the site (ca. 150,000 specimens), placing particular emphasis on the search for evidence of plant cultivation by Ohalo II people and the presence of weed species. The archaeobotanically-rich plant assemblage demonstrates extensive human gathering of over 140 plant species and food preparation by grinding wild wheat and barley. Among these, we identified 13 well-known current weeds mixed with numerous seeds of wild emmer, barley, and oat. This collection provides the earliest evidence of a human-disturbed environment-at least 11 millennia before the onset of agriculture-that provided the conditions for the development of “proto-weeds”, a prerequisite for weed evolution. Finally, we suggest that their presence indicates the earliest, small-scale attempt to cultivate wild cereals seen in the archaeological record.
Grain foods may play an important role in delivering nutrients to the diet of children and adolescents. The present study determined grain food sources of energy/nutrients in U.S. children and adolescents using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2012. Analyses of grain food sources were conducted using a 24-h recall in participants 2-18 years old (N = 6109). Sources of nutrients contained in grain foods were determined using U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrient composition databases and excluded mixed dishes. Mean energy and nutrient intakes from the total diet and from various grain foods were adjusted for the sample design using appropriate weights. All grains provided 14% ± 0.2% kcal/day (263 ± 5 kcal/day), 22.5% ± 0.3% (3 ± 0.1 g/day) dietary fiber, 39.3% ± 0.5% (238 ± 7 dietary folate equivalents (DFE)/day) folate and 34.9% ± 0.5% (5.6 ± 0.1 mg/day) iron in the total diet in children and adolescents. The current analyses showed that certain grain foods, in particular breads, rolls and tortillas, ready-to-eat cereals and quick breads and bread products, are meaningful contributors of folate, iron, thiamin, niacin and dietary fiber, a nutrient of public health concern as outlined by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Thus, specific grain foods contribute to nutrient density and have the potential to increase the consumption of several under-consumed nutrients in children and adolescents.
The domestication and transmission of cereals is one of the most fundamental components of early farming, but direct evidence of their use in early culinary practices and economies has remained frustratingly elusive. Using analysis of a well-preserved Early Bronze Age wooden container from Switzerland, we propose novel criteria for the identification of cereal residues. Using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), we identified compounds typically associated with plant products, including a series of phenolic lipids (alkylresorcinols) found only at appreciable concentration in wheat and rye bran. The value of these lipids as cereal grain biomarkers were independently corroborated by the presence of macrobotanical remains embedded in the deposit, and wheat and rye endosperm peptides extracted from residue. These findings demonstrate the utility of a lipid-based biomarker for wheat and rye bran and offer a methodological template for future investigations of wider range of archaeological contexts. Alkylresorcinols provide a new tool for residue analysis which can help explore the spread and exploitation of cereal grains, a fundamental component of the advent and spread of farming.
In the coming decades, continued population growth, rising meat and dairy consumption and expanding biofuel use will dramatically increase the pressure on global agriculture. Even as we face these future burdens, there have been scattered reports of yield stagnation in the world’s major cereal crops, including maize, rice and wheat. Here we study data from ∼2.5 million census observations across the globe extending over the period 1961-2008. We examined the trends in crop yields for four key global crops: maize, rice, wheat and soybeans. Although yields continue to increase in many areas, we find that across 24-39% of maize-, rice-, wheat- and soybean-growing areas, yields either never improve, stagnate or collapse. This result underscores the challenge of meeting increasing global agricultural demands. New investments in underperforming regions, as well as strategies to continue increasing yields in the high-performing areas, are required.
Tocopherols, tocotrienols and plastochromanols (collectively termed tocochromanols) are lipid-soluble antioxidants synthesized by all plants. Their dietary intake, primarily from seed oils, provides vitamin E and other health benefits. Tocochromanol biosynthesis has been dissected in the dicot Arabidopsis thaliana, which has green, photosynthetic seeds, but our understanding of tocochromanol accumulation in major crops, whose seeds are non-photosynthetic, remains limited. To understand the genetic control of tocochromanols in grain, we conducted a joint linkage and genome-wide association study in the 5,000-line U.S. maize (Zea mays) nested association-mapping panel. Fifty-two quantitative trait loci (QTL) for individual and total tocochromanols were identified, and of the 14 resolved to individual genes, six encode novel activities affecting tocochromanols in plants. These include two chlorophyll biosynthetic enzymes that explain the majority of tocopherol variation, which was not predicted, given that, like most major cereal crops, maize grain is non-photosynthetic. This comprehensive assessment of natural variation in vitamin E levels in maize establishes the foundation for improving tocochromanol and vitamin E content in seeds of maize and other major cereal crops.