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Any of various cerealgrasses in the genus Triticum of the family Poaceae, one of the oldest and most important of the cereal crops. More of the world's farmland is devoted to wheat than to any other food crop; China is the largest wheat producer. The plant has long, slender leaves, hollow stems in most varieties, and flowers grouped together in spikelets. Of the thousands of varieties known, the most important are T. aestivum, used to make bread; T. durum, used in making pasta; and T. compactum (club wheat), a softer type used for cake, crackers, cookies, pastries, and household flours. Winter wheat (sown in fall) and spring wheat (sown in spring or, where winters are mild, sometimes fall) are the two major types. The greatest portion of wheat flour is used for breadmaking. Small quantities are used in the production of starch, malt, gluten, alcohol, and other products. Inferior and surplus wheats and various milling by-products are used for livestock feeds.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on wheat, visit Britannica.com.