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Various cereals and their products

Cereal is any "grass cultivated for the edible components of its "grain (botanically, a type of "fruit called a "caryopsis), composed of the "endosperm, "germ, and "bran. Cereal "grains are grown in greater quantities and provide more food energy worldwide than any other type of crop[1] and are therefore "staple crops. Edible grains from other plant families, such as "buckwheat ("Polygonaceae), "quinoa ("Amaranthaceae) and "chia ("Lamiaceae), are referred to as "pseudocereals.

In their natural form (as in "whole grain), cereals are a rich source of "vitamins, "minerals, "carbohydrates, "fats, oils, and "protein. When refined by the removal of the bran and germ, the remaining "endosperm is mostly "carbohydrate. In some "developing countries, grain in the form of "rice, "wheat, "millet, or "maize constitutes a majority of daily sustenance. In "developed countries, cereal consumption is moderate and varied but still substantial.

The word cereal is derived from "Ceres, the Roman goddess of harvest and agriculture.


Ancient history[edit]

Threshing of grain in "ancient Egypt
Roman harvesting machine

"Agriculture allowed for the support of an increased population, leading to larger societies and eventually the development of cities. It also created the need for greater organization of political power (and the creation of "social stratification), as decisions had to be made regarding labor and harvest allocation and access rights to water and land. Agriculture bred immobility, as populations settled down for long periods of time, which led to the accumulation of material goods.[2]

Early "Neolithic villages show evidence of the development of processing grain. The "Levant is the ancient home of the ancestors of "wheat, "barley and "peas, in which many of these villages were based. There is evidence of the cultivation of "figs in the "Jordan Valley as long as 11,300 years ago, and cereal (grain) production in Syria approximately 9,000 years ago. During the same period, farmers in China began to farm "rice and "millet, using man-made floods and fires as part of their cultivation regimen.[3] Fiber crops were domesticated as early as food crops, with China domesticating "hemp, "cotton being developed independently in Africa and South America, and "Western Asia domesticating "flax.[4] The use of "soil amendments, including "manure, fish, "compost and "ashes, appears to have begun early, and developed independently in several areas of the world, including "Mesopotamia, the "Nile Valley and Eastern Asia.[5]

The first cereal grains were "domesticated by early primitive humans.[6] About 8,000 years ago, they were domesticated by ancient farming communities in the "Fertile Crescent region. "Emmer wheat, "einkorn wheat, and "barley were three of the so-called "Neolithic founder crops in the development of agriculture. Around the same time, millets and rices were starting to become domesticated in East Asia. Sorghum and millets were also being domesticated in sub-Saharan West Africa.

The Green Revolution[edit]

During the second half of the 20th century there was a spectacular increase in the production of high yield-cereal crops worldwide, especially wheat, and rice, due to an initiative known as the "Green Revolution.[7] The strategies developed by the Green Revolution focused on fending off starvation and were very successful in raising overall yields of cereal grains, but apparently["weasel words] did not give sufficient relevance to nutritional quality.[8] These modern high yield-cereal crops have low "quality proteins, with "essential amino acid deficiencies, are high in "carbohydrates, and lack balanced "essential fatty acids, "vitamins, "minerals and other quality factors.[8]


A wheat field in "Dorset, "England

While each individual species has its own peculiarities, the cultivation of all cereal crops is similar. Most are "annual plants; consequently one planting yields one harvest. Wheat, rye, triticale, oats, barley, and spelt are the "cool-season" cereals.["citation needed] These are hardy plants that grow well in moderate weather and cease to grow in hot weather (approximately 30 °C, but this varies by species and variety). The "warm-season" cereals are tender and prefer hot weather. Barley and rye are the hardiest cereals, able to overwinter in the "subarctic and "Siberia. Many cool-season cereals are grown in the tropics. However, some are only grown in cooler highlands, where it may be possible to grow multiple crops per year.

For the past few decades, there has also been increasing interest in "perennial grain plants. This interest developed due to advantages in erosion control, reduced need for fertiliser, and potential lowered costs to the farmer. Though research is still in early stages, "The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas has been able to create a few cultivars that produce a fairly good crop yield.[9]


Cereal "grain seeds from left to right, top to bottom: "wheat, "spelt, "barley, "oat.

The warm-season cereals are grown in tropical lowlands year-round and in temperate climates during the frost-free season. Rice is commonly grown in flooded fields, though some strains are grown on dry land. Other warm climate cereals, such as "sorghum, are adapted to arid conditions.

Cool-season cereals are well-adapted to temperate climates. Most varieties of a particular species are either winter or spring types. Winter varieties are sown in the autumn, germinate and grow vegetatively, then become "dormant during winter. They resume growing in the springtime and mature in late spring or early summer. This cultivation system makes optimal use of water and frees the land for another crop early in the growing season.

Winter varieties do not flower until springtime because they require "vernalization: exposure to low temperatures for a genetically determined length of time. Where winters are too warm for vernalization or exceed the hardiness of the crop (which varies by species and variety), farmers grow spring varieties. Spring cereals are planted in early springtime and mature later that same summer, without vernalization. Spring cereals typically require more irrigation and yield less than winter cereals.


Threshing; Tacuinum Sanitatis, 14th century

Once the cereal plants have grown their seeds, they have completed their "life cycle. The plants die, become brown, and dry. As soon as the parent plants and their seed kernels are reasonably dry, harvest can begin.

In developed countries, cereal crops are universally machine-harvested, typically using a "combine harvester, which cuts, "threshes, and "winnows the grain during a single pass across the field. In developing countries, a variety of harvesting methods are in use, depending on the cost of labor, from combines to hand tools such as the "scythe or "grain cradle.

If a crop is harvested during humid weather, the grain may not dry adequately in the field to prevent spoilage during its storage. In this case, the grain is sent to a dehydrating facility, where artificial heat dries it.

In North America, farmers commonly deliver their newly harvested grain to a "grain elevator, a large storage facility that consolidates the crops of many farmers. The farmer may sell the grain at the time of delivery or maintain ownership of a share of grain in the pool for later sale. Storage facilities should be protected from small grain pests, rodents and birds.


The following table shows the annual production of cereals in 1961,[10] 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 ranked by 2013 production.[11]

Grain Worldwide production
(millions of metric tons)
2013 2012 2011 2010 1961
"Maize (corn) 1016 872 888 851 205 A staple food of people in the Americas, Africa, and of "livestock worldwide; often called corn in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. A large portion of maize crops are grown for purposes other than human consumption.
"Rice[12] 745 720 725 703 285 The primary cereal of tropical and some temperate regions. "Staple food in most of "Brazil (both maize and manioc/"cassava were once more important and their presence is still stronger in some areas), other parts of "Latin America and some other Portuguese-descended cultures, parts of Africa (even more before the "Columbian exchange), most of "South Asia and the "Far East. Largely overridden by "breadfruit (a dicot tree) during the South Pacific's part of the "Austronesian expansion.
"Wheat 713 671 699 650 222 The primary cereal of temperate regions. It has a worldwide consumption but it is a staple food of North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, most of the "Southern Cone and much of the "Greater Middle East. "Wheat gluten-based meat substitutes are important in the Far East (albeit less than "tofu) and said to resemble meat texture more than others.
"Barley 144 133 133 124 72 Grown for "malting and "livestock on land too poor or too cold for wheat.
"Sorghum 61 57 58 60 41 Important staple food in Asia and Africa and popular worldwide for livestock.
"Millet 30 30 27 33 26 A group of similar but distinct cereals that form an important staple food in Asia and Africa.
"Oats 23 21 22 20 50 Popular worldwide as a breakfast food and livestock feed. In human consumption, oats can be served as "porridge as "oatmeal,[13] although oats could be eaten in various different forms other than "rolled oats, including unprocessed oats.[13][14]
"Rye 16 15 13 12 12 Important in cold climates.
"Triticale 14.5 14 13 14 35 "Hybrid of wheat and rye, grown similarly to rye.
"Fonio 0.6 0.59 0.59 0.57 0.18 Several varieties are grown as food crops in Africa.

Maize, wheat, and rice together accounted for 89% of all cereal production worldwide in 2012, and 43% of all food calories in 2009,[11] while the production of oats and triticale have drastically fallen from their 1960s levels.

Other cereals worthy of notice, but not included in "FAO statistics, include:

Several other species of wheat have also been domesticated, some very early in the history of agriculture:

In 2013 global cereal production reached a record 2,521 million tonnes. A slight dip to 2,498 million tonnes was forecasted for 2014 by the FAO in July 2014.

Nutritional facts[edit]

Assortment of dried legume foods

Some grains are deficient in the "essential amino acid, "lysine. That is why many vegetarian cultures, in order to get a balanced diet, combine their diet of grains with "legumes.

Many legumes, however, are deficient in the essential amino acid "methionine, which grains contain. Thus, a "combination of legumes with "grains forms a well-balanced diet for vegetarians. Common examples of such combinations are "dal (lentils) with "rice by "South Indians and "Bengalis, dal with wheat in "Pakistan and "North India, and "beans with corn tortillas, "tofu with rice, and "peanut butter with wheat bread (as sandwiches) in several other cultures, including Americans.[15] The amount of "crude protein found in grain is measured as the grain crude protein concentration.[16]

Cereals contain "exogenous "opioid "peptides called "exorphins and include "opioid food peptides like "Gluten exorphin and "opioid food peptides. They mimic the actions of "endorphines because they bind to the same "opioid receptors in the brain.


The "ISO has published a series of standards regarding cereal products which are covered by ICS 67.060.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IDRC - International Development Research Centre". IDRC - International Development Research Centre. Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. 
  2. ^ DK Jordan (24 November 2012). "Living the Revolution". The Neolithic. University of California – San Diego. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Development of Agriculture". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 14 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Hancock, James F. (2012). Plant evolution and the origin of crop species (3rd ed.). CABI. p. 119. "ISBN "1-84593-801-1. 
  5. ^ UN Industrial Development Organization, "International Fertilizer Development Center (1998). The Fertilizer Manual (3rd ed.). Springer. p. 46. "ISBN "0-7923-5032-4. 
  6. ^ Serna-Saldivar, Sergio (2010). Cereal Grains: Properties, Processing, and Nutritional Attributes. p. 535. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "Lessons from the green revolution: towards a new green revolution". "FAO. Archived from the original on 18 May 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2017. The green revolution was a technology package comprising material components of improved high-yielding varieties (HYVs) of two staple cereals (rice and wheat), irrigation or controlled water supply and improved moisture utilization, fertilizers and pesticides and associated management skills. 
  8. ^ a b Sands DC, Morris CE, Dratz EA, Pilgeram A (2009). "Elevating optimal human nutrition to a central goal of plant breeding and production of plant-based foods". Plant Sci (Review). 177 (5): 377–89. "doi:10.1016/j.plantsci.2009.07.011. "PMC 2866137Freely accessible. "PMID 20467463. 
  9. ^ Kunzig, Robert (April 2011) The Big Idea: Perennial Grains Archived 5 October 2011 at the "Wayback Machine.. National Geographic.
  10. ^ 1961 is the earliest year for which "FAO statistics are available.
  11. ^ a b "ProdSTAT". FAOSTAT. Archived from the original on 9 February 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2006. 
  12. ^ The weight given is for paddy rice
  13. ^ a b "Oats". The World's Healthiest Foods. Archived from the original on 29 June 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Types of Oats". Archived from the original on 29 June 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  15. ^ Vogel, Steven (2003). Prime Mover – A Natural History of Muscle. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., USA, p. 301. "ISBN "039332463X.
  16. ^ Edwards, J.S.; Bartley, E.E.; Dayton, A.D. (1980). "Effects of Dietary Protein Concentration on Lactating Cows". "Journal of Dairy Science. 63 (2): 243. "doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(80)82920-1. 
  17. ^ "International Organization for Standardization. "67.060: Cereals, pulses and derived products". Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2009. 

External links[edit]

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