Wheat currently provides 18% of the daily intake of calories and 20% of proteins for humans. Since its domestication in the Fertile Crescent, wheat has been the basic staple food of the major civilizations of Europe, West Asia and North Africa. The wheat-growing area within the Mediterranean Basin represents 27% of the arable land, and the region represents 60% of the world’s growing area for durum wheat, the species used for pasta manufacturing. Many changes have occurred from the low-productive plants cultivated in prehistoric times to the modern varieties that are now grown, which offer high productivity and quality standards. During the migration process of ancient forms of wheat from the east to the west of the Mediterranean Basin, both natural and human selections occurred, resulting in the development of local landraces characterized by their huge genetic diversity and their documented resilience to abiotic stresses. Wheat breeding activities conducted in the Mediterranean Basin during the twentieth century resulted in large genetic gains in yield and quality. New wheat varieties to be grown in the Mediterranean Basin will need to be resilient to climate change because more frequent episodes of higher temperatures and water scarcity are to be expected.
Part of the book: Mediterranean Identities