Organic Ancient Cereal Supply-chain

There is increasing demand from artisan bakers, and more commercial outlets, for ancient species of cereals which are becoming increasingly popular with consumers. Their extensive root systems, compared to modern varieties, allow them to access nutrients more efficiently, and from deeper within the soil profile. This allows them to be grown on less fertile soil and with fewer inputs, potentially increase levels of certain nutrients in the grain and compete against weeds. Bread from ancient cereals are widely thought to have better, richer flavours compared to many modern varieties.

Although the demand for these ancient cereal species has increased, it can be difficult to produce them in an economically viable manner, given generally low yields. There is little to no up-to-date agronomic information relating to ancient cereal varieties, and the ability to carry out research into the effects of different seed rates and under sowing on farm will allow the farmer group to have a better understanding of the agronomy and economics of growing the crops. 

As part of this project, trials were set up in Spring 2019 across four farms in Pembrokeshire investigating the agronomy of an ancient and a heritage wheat compared to a modern variety. Certain management factors of interest were included, varying seed rates and undersowing, decided through the farmer led research approach. 

By addressing some key agronomic questions, the aims were to improve the efficiency of production, with the baking, taste and nutritional test to help test the claims made for products based on ancient cereals.


Project Outcomes:

  • There is the potential for Ancient and Heritage wheats to become an opportunity for crop system diversification for suitable farms. 
  • The Ancient and Heritage Wheats show promising results from the trial in terms of grain yields, grain quality and beneficial crop traits such as weed suppression.
  • Key issues and barriers have been identified for the growing and establishment of ancient and heritage wheat varieties, which can be potentially considered for future purposes.