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Pasta Potential: Why the World Needs Better Wheat

Syngenta is working with Italian farmers to significantly improve the efficiency of durum wheat production, the key ingredient of pasta.

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This content is brought to you by Syngenta.

Think of pasta and you think of Italy and a rich menu of mouth-watering dishes . . . Cannelloni, Ravioli, Macaroni, and more. Italy is the undisputed cultural heartland of pasta, exporting it as a central pillar of its cuisine that has become common in homes almost everywhere. There are over 300 different types of pasta, and more than three times as many names for them depending on your country, region, and even your town. But all true Italian pasta has one thing in common: it is made from durum wheat.

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Whereas pasta was once the preserve of the Italian nobility, today it is ubiquitous across society and the world. Indeed, as a low cost, easy to cook, and nutritious food that is also versatile and tasty, pasta is a popular option for people living on a budget. And that makes durum wheat an important staple crop both now and looking to the future.

Every day the world has 200,000 more mouths to feed as we advance towards a population estimated to reach 9.5 billion by 2040. Feeding so many people without devastating the planet’s already strained natural resources is a global challenge, and one to which Syngenta is wholly committed. Syngenta’s Good Growth Plan is finding innovative new ways to sustainably increase food production by 20% without expanding the amount of land farmed. In Italy it is already making significant improvements to the farming of durum wheat for pasta.

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Wheat grown for bread is different to wheat grown for pasta. Cereal growers must meet stringent quality criteria according to the end-use of their crop: for pasta production durum wheat must have a protein content of 14%. However, strange though it might seem, Italy is struggling to produce enough good quality durum wheat that meets this criterion. Syngenta is therefore working with Italian farmers to improve both the quality and the quantity of their durum wheat production through a project called Grano Armando.

Syngenta has brought together an array of technologies, from genetics to disease prevention, to create a specific cultivation protocol called Armando. This sustainably delivers very high-quality durum wheat, enabling farmers to grow more and better durum wheat for the production of pasta. The results are tangible: the project’s 1,000 growers have experienced a 15% increase in productivity and an enhanced protein content of 14% as opposed to the Italian average of 12%.

Central to Grano Armando is Syngenta’s establishment of a beneficial network across the pasta supply chain, connecting individual and often isolated farmers with seed producers and pasta manufacturers, including the flagship brand of Grano Armando itself. This co-operative collaboration is stimulating the creation of more suitable and more profitable product, allowing farmers to get the best out of their crop and earn a reliable income in a sustainable way. This in turn is revitalizing entire agricultural communities.

It is only fitting that a pilot scheme for pasta be trialled in Italy: but Italy is only the beginning. Syngenta is developing Grano Armando as a scalable solution that could see the cultivation protocol distributed worldwide. With wheat currently the world’s second largest food crop after rice, and the world’s largest crop by acreage, the benefits of introducing or improving high-quality durum wheat on a global scale are obvious. By putting pasta on the plates of more people across the planet, Syngenta is making a positive contribution to the global efforts that will sustainably feed future generations, and feed them well.

The content is provided by a sponsor. It was not written by our editorial staff, nor does it necessarily reflect the editorial view of national Geographic.

This content was written by and is brought to you by our sponsor. It does not necessarily reflect the views of National Geographic or its editorial staff.