Wheat is Australia's most important grain crop. Over the five year period to 1995, wheat exports averaged about $2.3 billion. By world standards, Australia is a relatively small producer of wheat, accounting for only 3% of annual world production. However, about 80% of our wheat is exported. This means that Australia contributes between and 8 and 15% of world trade, making it the fourth largest exporter after the United States, Canada and the European Union.

Wheat originated in the Middle East, in an area called Mesopotamia, now part of Iraq. People have been growing wheat for thousands of years. Australia's first wheat was grown at the Botanic Gardens in Sydney. The first farmer of wheat was a convict by the name of James Ruse. Soon others started growing wheat too. Wheat was first shipped to England in 1883. During the 19th century, wheat farms were established in all the Australian colonies.

About 25 000 farms in Australia grow wheat as a major crop and the average area sown to wheat is 910 hectares. Farmers usually sow their wheat seed after Autumn rain. In the southern part of Australia, sowing occurs in April, but in Queensland, it is usually in July. Seeds are sown at about 7cm deep and 18cm apart. If the soil is moist, it will sprout in 5-7 days and takes 5-7 months to mature. While growing, wheat requires 200-380mm of rain. Wheat is harvested at the end of its growth, when the seeds have ripened.

When the wheat has ripened in the paddock, machines called header harvesters are used to cut the heads of the grain from their stalks. Inside the header, beaters thresh the husks from the grain. The husks and straw are blown from the wheat which is stored in a bin in the harvester. When the bin is full, the grain is pumped into a truck and taken to storage.

Wheat is milled into flour and other products and these are used to make many types of food.

Bread is one of the oldest and most diverse foods. Wheat (and to a lesser extent rye) is the only grain that can produce dough capable of holding gases produced by yeast well enough to give well-risen loaves. This property is related to the presence of a protein called gluten.

Biscuits, cakes and pastry Doughs made for biscuits must be capable of being sheeted prior to cutting. Low protein, soft wheat is used for cake flour.

Middle Eastern Flat or Pocket Breads These products come in many shapes and sizes and are baked in very hot ovens for short times.

Pasta is made from semolina (high protein flour) from durum wheat. The dough is extruded through a die.

Noodles are produced by cutting strips from rolled sheets of dough. They can be boiled, steamed, dried or fried.

Gluten (protein) and starch (cabohydrate) are the two main components of flour.

Gluten is used to help natural gluten in flour to make better breadds and buns. It is also used in pet food, small goods, glues and other chemicals.

Starch has many uses. These include glues, fillers, confectionary, soft drinks, cordials, food thickeners, paper making, textile sizing, mineral flocculation. Other by-products include glucoseand bran.

All Australian wheat is marketed overseas by the Australian Wheat Board. Australia markets wheat of high quality. It is white, clean, dry and insect-free. These marketing features have been fundamental to the success of Australian wheat overseas. Australian wheat is shipped to more than 40 countries - mostly in Asia and the Middle East. Major markets include China, Egypt, Japan, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea.

Australian wheat is recognised throughout the world for its consistently high quality. It is used to make noodles, steamed buns, flat breads, loaf breads, cakes and pastries. It is likely that as the world's population grows, there will be an increasing demand for food. The Australian wheat industry will have an important role in helping to feed the people of the world.

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Wheat by Caitlin

Cotton by Sarah J.

Beef Cattle by Nash

Wool by Alyce

Sugar Cane by Dean

Dairy Cattle by Daniel T.

Timber by Daniel N.

Poultry by Katherine

Pigs by Daniel C.

Peanuts by Geoffrey

Angora Goats by Prue

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