Wheat belongs to the family of sweet grasses. The crop is one of the most important basic foodstuffs after maize, since it is required to produce bread. Wheat is also used in animal feed. Despite its high demands, the grain can be cultivated in over 80 countries worldwide.
Wheat is used primarily in the food industry. The most important wheat product is flour, but wheat also plays an important role in the production of beer, whiskey and cooking oil. Wheat is cultivated primarily in the USA, Russia, Canada, China and India.
Wheat places high demands on soil and climate, although the demands vary among the known wheat varieties – of which there are over 1000. Unlike rye, wheat will not withstand cold temperatures and requires more water and heat. The grain grows best on calcareous, humus-rich, mild clayey soils. When wheat is traded on the US stock exchanges a distinction is drawn between two varieties: spring and winter wheat. Winter wheat accounts for the majority of annual production (75%).
The seed wheat used today is a hybrid of several different varieties of cereal and wild grass. The first varieties of wheat which were cultivated by people in the Middle East were small spelt and emmer. After barley, wheat is the oldest known cereal crop, with finds dating back to the period between 7800 and 5200 B.C. Wheat did not gain its current importance until it spread to Asia, Europe and North Africa, however. Wheat did not become fully established until the 11th century, when white bread emerged. Today, wheat is the cereal crop with the highest annual output and the largest cultivation area.
The most important trading venues for wheat are the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, the Kansas City Board of Trade, the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, the Mid America Commodity Exchange, the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange, the Sydney Futures Exchange, the Warenterminbörse Hannover, the Marche a Terme International de France, the Budapest Commodity Exchange and the Mercado a Termino de Buenos Aires.