Along with maize and rice, wheat is one of the most important food crops. Wheat is a cereal grain, originating from the Levant region of the Near East and Ethiopian Highlands, but the crop is now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 MT, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize (784 MT) and rice (651 MT). In 2009, world production of wheat was 682 MT, making it the second most-produced cereal after maize (817 MT), and with rice as close third (679 MT). It is grown on about 220 million hectares worldwide, covering more land area than any other crop. Major wheat producing countries include China, India, USA, Russia and France.
- Triticum aestivum, Triticum durum
- Occurrence & Agricultural Importance in this Country:
- Cultivation Areas:
The cultivated area with wheat in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has varied from year to year due to changes in government policies that target this sector. In 2007 the government decided to terminate support for domestic wheat production by 2016, which was a drastic change in the country’s longstanding policy (since the early 80’s) to achieve and sustain self-sufficiency in wheat. Current signs are that this policy itself may be reviewed.
Due to its importance in food security and high prices for the commodity, it is likely to remain a very important crop.
- Main Varieties:
- The main cultivated varieties include Uokrago, Aksada 59 and Aksada 67.
- Marketing Information and Uses:
- Mainly used for food but also used as feed/fodder for the dairy industry.
- Saudi Arabia is a net importer of wheat purchasing on average 1.1 million Tonnes of wheat annually which is expected to increase as domestic supply is reduced.
- Crop Management:
Cultivation conditions and methods:
- Soil Type:
- Wheat can grow in different soils ranging from sandy to heavy types. Good soil drainage is a key factor for good productivity. Heavy, deep, humus-rich, well-aerated soils with a high water capacity and a pH between 5.5 and 7.5 are preferable. Nutrient-rich clay and black earth soils are ideal.
- Of all cereals, it is the most widely adapted; the highest yields, however, are achieved in the cooler parts of its ecological range. It develops best at temperatures of 10-24°C and therefore in warm climates it is grown at high altitudes or during the cold season.
- Water Requirements:
- Irrigation is important if the yield of wheat is to be maximized. Water availability is more important for germination and initial crop growth and development. Irrigation is also very critical during pollination in order to produce good grain quality. Therefore, in Saudi Arabia, wheat is mainly grown under large pivot irrigation systems drawing water from underground aquifers.
- Nutrition Requirements:
- Soil should be subject to soil analysis for nutrient availability especially in new reclaimed lands.
- Harvesting Period:
- Typically harvest takes place in May.
- Harvesting Methods:
- Mechanised harvesting is the typical method employed.
- Planting Period:
- Wheat normally needs between 110 and 130 days between planting and harvest, depending upon climate, seed type, and soil conditions. In Saudi Arabia the appropriate planting period is November/December.