Top Crop Manager: Addressing the asparagine challenge
A multidisciplinary team of Canadian researchers is tackling a growing issue for the wheat industry: free asparagine.
This naturally occurring amino acid is a key contributor to grain protein; however, asparagine that remains in the grain as a free amino acid – rather than bound up in the protein – looks to be the trigger for a potential food safety risk. The team’s goal is to help ensure Canadian wheat growers can produce top quality, safe wheat that competes successfully in the marketplace.
“Asparagine is an amino acid that plants generate. It is important for transporting nitrogen around the plant. Generally that free asparagine gets converted into protein in the wheat grain. The trouble is that the grain will also have a pool of some amount of free asparagine as the amino acid. When flour from the grain is baked into bread or cookies, for example, the high baking temperatures tend to cause a reaction between the free asparagine and sugars in the dough, which then forms acrylamide,” explains Martin Scanlon, a food scientist at the University of Manitoba who is leading this research.