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Ancient and modern grains go head-to-head

As the wheat harvest progresses sporadically through the ran showers, some growers are considering a return to ancient and heritage varieties.

For farmers looking for low input wheat varieties, suitable for minimal tillage, organic systems, then some of the grains that have long been pushed to the margins by modern, high yielding, gluten-rich varieties are making a comeback.

Farro grains such as Emmer and Einkorn are being trialled in a range of systems as demand for such varieties is on the rise with artisan bakers, seeking to offer a wide range of breads to their customers.

Trials have been taking place in Pembrokeshire in Wales, with support from the European Innovation Partnership. At one farm in Caehys, St Davids, crop comparisons could be viewed with plots planted with modern wheat variety Mulika standing next to ancient seed varieties. Some of the plots were undersign with clover and there was also intercropping with beans.

In conventional systems, Mulika outperformed the ancient grain April Bearded, but in organic conditions, April Bearded had outperformed Mulika in protein content and specific weight and had matched the modern grain for yield. When it came to weed suppressant, the ancient grain outperformed the Mulika.

Levels of fungal disease Septoria were similar across varieties but there was a higher incidence of Yellow Rust in April Bearded.

One significant difference was the Lodging Index. Both April Bearded and Einkorn scored significantly higher than modern grains under a conventional growing system.

The trials are continuing into their third year and the results will be shared with the industry at their conclusion.

Picture credit: Photo by Tim Matrason Unsplash