Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, Switzerland

Effects of variety and environment on wheat viscosity

Wheat viscosity is a qualitative characteristic of cereals. Certain studies indicate positive effects for human health linked to high viscosity, such as the lowering of cholesterol or a reduction in cancer risks. Where the feeding of livestock is concerned, however – especially monogastric animals – low levels of viscosity are desirable. In fact, among other things, a high viscosity reduces enzymatic activity in the animal’s gut, slows down the passage of the alimentary bolus, and reduces the rate of absorption of the feed. To counteract these disadvantages, the industry enriches forage mixtures with enzymes. The viscosity of 48 varieties of wheat was analysed, with 24 varieties being tested during the three years of the trial. Although this trait is highly dependent upon variety, it also varies according to the pedoclimatic conditions of the crop. Seventy per cent of the varieties studied have an average viscosity that is suitable for feed. Viscosity is linked to practically no other agronomic or qualitative characteristic (particularly kernel yield). Despite this, a sub-sample of 11 varieties shows a negative correlation between viscosity and protein content. The results of this study show that producers have access to varieties with highly contrasting viscosities. In-depth knowledge of the viscosities of the different varieties and their targeted usage might contribute to a reduction in the use of enzymes in the mixtures, especially where the breeders themselves produce the raw material for feeding their livestock.

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