Northeast Organic Wheat; an extension program for on-farm crop improvement in organic systems and local market partnerships

Final Report for LNE08-270

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $162,845.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Eli Rogosa
Heritage Grain Conservancy
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Project Information


Northeast Organic Wheat conducted a four-year participatory research and education program to increase the genetic diversity and productivity of wheat in northeast organic systems, through on-farm breeding/selection of landraces, farmer workshops, and local market partnerships. Our goal is to increase the sustainability, climate resilience and profit from improved wheat varieties better adapted to Northeast organic conditions for end-use in artisan products.

A working group of organic farmers, wheat breeders, extension, millers and bakers identified overall goals and methods to trial promising world-wide landraces. Farmers conducted on-farm trials and selected the superior wheat populations for traits contributing to yield, disease resistance and quality in organic systems. Criteria included: height for weed competition, yield as measured by grain weight per plant, health as an indicator of resistance to local diseases and resilience to weather extremes. Flour was evaluated for nutritional value, loaf volume and flavor.

As a result of four annual conferences and training events reaching over 350 participants, educational materials, technical assistance and dissemination of the improved landraces by provided by this project, over 112 farmers received seed samples, at least 24 growers conducted on-farm trials, and 75 gardeners trialed and selected the landraces on their organic fields. Farmers received technical assistance in organic wheat management for at least 1500 acres in organic wheat rotation. This has resulted in at least 24 farmers triaing one or more of the 8 improved landrace populations and at least 75 gardeners multiplying and selecting landraces. Over a three year period our improved winter wheat landraces equaled, and some surpassed, the yield of the modern cultivars in organic field trials.

We disseminated our methodologies, improved landrace genepools and results to researchers, cooperative extension, organic farmers, and helped foster regional market linkages with millers and bakers. Our program stimulated regional interest in landrace wheat, emmer and einkorn. Producers gained access to new markets, including the New York City Green Market, artisan bakeries such as Trukenbrod, VT, Wheatberry, MA and Wild Hive, NY, and fine restaurants such as Chez Nous, Lee, MA and the Gramercy Tavern, NYC. Improved organic, locally adapted varieties and our methods are now available to Northeast growers. Materials produced include an educational guidebooklet on ‘Grain Husbandry’, a scientific poster ‘Increasing Wheat Biodiversity, a paper on ‘Evolutionary Wheat Breeding’ and educational materials on how to cross wheat, ancient wheats and heritage wheats. These are available online for researchers, growers and extension throughout the Northeast. This project represents a community-based approach to strengthen our NE regional grain supply.


Why Restore Landrace Grains?

Wheat is not native to North America. The landrace wheat diversity native to the Fertile Crescent and Europe does not exist in the organic farms of New England. Most US grain growers, familiar only with conventionally-bred modern wheat cultivars, are little aware of landrace wheat’s potential to enhance artisan foods, or their yield stability as we face unprecedented climate change weather extremes. Although modern wheat is the most widely grown crop on the planet, its genetic diversity is threatened, impacting global food security.

Landrace grains have evolved over millennia through natural and farmer selection to be well adapted to low-input farming systems, and carry wide genetic diversity. In comparison to modern wheat, landraces have higher biomass, more extensive root systems that reach deeper soil profiles to extract moisture and nutrients, and higher transpiration efficiency. Their capacity to concentrate soluble carbohydrates in the stem shortly after anthesis enhances translocation of nutrients to the developing grain. Wheat landraces are better adapted than modern cultivars to changing climate conditions due to their greater genetic capacity to evolve embedded buffering responses to stress. Landrace wheats offer today’s organic farmer greater height and early vigor to better compete with weeds, more effective nutrient scavenging capacity in organic soils, greater nutrient bioavailability and delicious complex flavor and quality traits for artisan breads.

In contrast, modern wheat has been bred for yield in conventional systems but with the hidden cost of uniformity and dependence on agrochemicals, in weather and soil conditions vastly different than New England. Nutrition and flavor are neglected. Modern wheat is bred in conventional high nitrogen input systems resulting in dependence on consistently available agrochemical inputs. The great advantage of modern varieties is that under high nitrogen they do not lodge. Modern varieties produce consistent levels of protein, making industrialized production and distribution more efficient. In landraces not only is there is greater variation in the gluten index and baking quality, but local weather variations compound the problem, requiring bakers to be constantly adjusting recipes.

Organic systems tend to be lower yielding due in part to use of varieties bred with dependence on chemical fertilizers. Use of landrace wheat genepools may better support organic farms in realizing their potential as a stable-yielding, ecological alternative to chemical dependent agriculture.

Performance Target:

a) Increase Genetic Diversity: Core breeder-extension-farmer-baker team identified key selection goals, established at least one experimental trial plot per state to increase genetic diversity using genepools, elite landraces genotypes, and superior modern cultivars,

?b) Training: Four annual regional conferences were conducted, with supporting field days at our demonstration sites in Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York. 60 participating farmers and 125 gardeners were trained in on-farm wheat trialing and selection in organic systems.

?c) On-Farm Trials: Of 120 growers who participated in the program, 24 growers trialed new grain genepools on over 1,000 organic acres, resulting in increased yield, quality, sustainability and profit from improved genepools adapted to organic systems. Of the 60 trained, at least 24 will trial and select grains, and use promising wheats as the basis of enhanced direct market partnerships with local bakers.

?d.) Utilization: 24 farmers, 12 artisan bakers and a laboratory cooperated in selecting for wheat quality by conducting flour quality and taste-tests.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Jim Amaral
  • Jim Amaral
  • Erik Andrus
  • Patrick Bensen
  • Dr. Anders Borgen
  • Peter Collins
  • Andy Dappollonio
  • Dr. Heather Darby
  • Sylvia Davatz
  • Adam Dole
  • Elizabeth Dyck
  • Alton Ernhart
  • Mark Fulford
  • Steve Hed
  • Dr. Abdullah Jaradat
  • Dr. Géza Kovács
  • Jacob L'Etoile
  • Amber Lambke
  • John Lapp
  • CR Lawn
  • Ben Lester
  • Klaas Martens
  • John Melquist
  • Kate Mendenhall
  • Thor Oechsner
  • Tevis Robertson-Goldberg
  • June Russell
  • Steffen Schneider
  • Alan Schwartz
  • Erick Smith
  • Dr. Dean Spaner
  • Joel Steigman
  • Nigel Tudor
  • Arnie Volringer
  • Matt Williams


Materials and methods:

Agronomic Screening, Crossing Elite Landraces to Create New Landrace Genepools:

Our objective is to increase the genetic diversity of wheat to develop genepools that are well-adapted to organic soils, with extensive root systems and sturdy tall stalks that compete with weeds, with robust tolerances to the increasingly unpredictable climate, and resistance to diseases such as fusarium. In addition, we are investigating how increasing whole farm diversity through rotation and intercropping may enhance weed and disease suppression, and build soil fertility.

Our trial material was contributed by international partners that include: the Dr. Geza Kovacs, Director of the Hungarian Cereal Genebank, the German Biodynamic Cereal Breeding Program, Dr. Anders Borgen, Denmark, the Georgian Organic Farmers Association, the French Peasant Seed Network and the USDA genebank.

Year 1. 2008 - 2009: 96 landrace winter wheats populations were planted in the second week of September in three randomized replicated plots 3’ x 4’. AC Maxine was used as a control. Each seed was planted 12” apart. Plots were under-sown with clover to suppress weeds. In the previous year the field was sown in rye and cover crops that were tilled in one month prior to planting. The field were fertilized with composted manure from Martin’s Compost, Greenfield, MA at the rate of 10 tons per acre. A summer field day was conducted that hosted 65 farmers. The most robust and disease resistant were crossed with each other to create composite cross genepools.

Participating farmers conducted on-farm trials and have contributed their selected best seed back to our seed bank.

We evaluated:

1. Seeding rate at four different densities. Seed were planted 6, 8, 10, 12 inches apart, and evaluated for yield, height and disease.

2. Yield and disease resistance of mixtures of genepools with similar maturity dates, but varied in height.

3. Neglected and underutilized wheat species such as einkorn, emmer, polanicum, timopheevi and carthlicum,

4. Rotation with brassica, such as Pacific Gold Mustard to suppress Fusarium, intercropping legumes and under-sowing with clover to enhance weed control and fusarium suppression.

Populations were evaluated for disease (fusarium, bunt, leaf/stem rust), weed suppressive capacity, architecture (thick stem, no lodging, height/weed competition), color (indicator of N-utilization efficiency), whole plant robustness, tolerance to drought/heavy rains, dates of maturity and yield (number of tillers x seeds per head) and 1000 kernel weight (density). We eliminated half of the populations, and rogued out about 60% the plants with less desirable traits from the populations with the highest overall scores. Trials were also planted at the Colrain Seed Farm that had temperatures averaging 10 degrees lower than the UMass site.

Chewing Test:
In the first year we did not have the one pound required for laboratory test of protein and falling number that measures good gluten for breadmaking, so I used a chew test for a subjective evaluation of which plants had stronger gluten as a guide for which plants to save seed. I chewed a few grains until it made a gum, and felt which had more adhesion. This was how the reknowned Marquis wheat was bred by Charles Saunders.

Year 2. 2009 - 2010: Segregation, Selection and Multiplication
The 15 most robust, highest yielding populations from year 1 were planted in replicated, randomized strips 100’ x 4’ at 12” spacing between each seed at three sites (UMass, Colrain Seed Farm, SIT Farm in Brattleboro, VT). We selected intensively, saving seeds from the elite 30% of plants with the least disease, and the highest number of tillers with fat seedheads. For yield data please refer to the 2010 chart in the appendix. The fertility and soil organic matter (OM) in each site was significantly different. Colrain had the highest OM. UMass and SIT had lower OM. UMass had the highest N. The modern wheat AC Maxine yielded highest at UMass. In the lowest fertility site, SIT, the modern and landrace wheats did fair to poor, but the ancient wheats emmer and einkorn yielded the highest, exhibiting consistent stable yield under high fertility or under stress.

A summer field day was conducted that hosted 70 farmers. Seeds were disseminated to participating farmers for them to trial. 40 new genebank accessions were planted for initial screening.

Year 3. 2010-2011: Continued Selection and Cooperation:
Improved populations and breeding genepools from year 2 were planted in 3 rows of replicated, randomized strips 100’ x 4’ at UMass.

1. Bezbanatskaja (genepool of Mironskaja x Banatka x Bezostaja) 2. Rogosa (genepool of Bezostaja x Banatka) 3. Banatka - cross of Banat x Bankuti, Hungary 4. Mixture of Bez, Rogosa and Banatka 5. Rouge de Bordeaux - French Landrace
6. Canaan Rouge – Unique types selected from a field of Rouge de Bordeaux x Carthlicum
7. Zyta - Modern, Poland
8. Kavkaz - Kazahastan
9. Mixture of Rouge de Bordeaux, Canaan and Kavkaz
10. Red Lamas – Colonial Mass/Britain
11. Poltavka - Ukraine
12. Purple - Ethiopia
13. Mixture of Red Lamas, Poltavka and Purple
14. Black Winter Emmer – Carpathian Mountains
15. Einkorn - Carpathian Mountains
16. Control AC Maxine

Adapting to Climate Change
Our goal is to develop wheat populations with the buffering capacity to adapt and thrive in New England’s unprecedented weather extremes, and to increase cropping system diversity to mitigate climate change impacts. In the past 40 years in New England, the weather has become warmer and dryer with more unpredictable damaging rain events. The region is expected to experience more intense drought periods punctuated by extreme weather events. Spring, 2011 in the Northeast has been the wettest March - April on record in some areas according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.

Year 1 was cool and rainy, providing a good opportunity to screen for lodging and fusarium susceptibility. Year 2’s hot, dry weather was excellent for wheat production, but did not provide moisture pressure to adapt crops to New England’s more typical rainy weather. Harvest maturity was one month different between Year 1 and 2. Year 1 we harvested in early August. Year 2 in early July. The growing season’s temperature and rainfall, recorded by the National Weather Service from weather stations near the UMass site, are shown in the attached chart.

Year 1 - 2008: NY germplasm evaluations of 25 hard red spring wheat varieties (a mix of heritage varieties and lines from the Midwestern US, Canada, and Europe) were obtained from the National Small Grains Collection. These were grown out in small plots in south central NY on the farm of the NOFA-NY coordinator of the project (Chenango County). Characterization and evaluation of this material was reported on the wheat workshop held at the NOFA-NY annual winter conference in January 2009. Germplasm evaluations of 25 landrace winter wheat varieties and four emmer varieties from the New York State heritage wheat collection and the National Small Grains Collection were planted on Crimson Clover Farm, Bainbridge, NY. In addition, a grower-cooperator in the Finger Lakes region (Yates County) grew out six emmer varieties obtained from the Carrington Research Center of North Dakota State University. The bulked material will be planted out in field-scale strip plots in spring 2009 for characterization and evaluation.

Year 2 - 2009: Results from the single-plot grow-outs of 20 heritage and modern soft white and red winter wheat varieties that were bred in New York are shown in the attachment (NY -1). Data from this trial and trials conducted at Cornell’s Willsboro Farm, combined with the results of tastings of bread and other baked goods, was used by farmers and bakers to identify varieties, both heritage and modern, that were grown out for larger-scale trialing, and potential commercial production.

Year 3 – 2010: The best performing varieties from Eli Rogosa’s UMass trials were disseminated to participating NY growers for continued on-farm selection.

Research results and discussion:


Seeding Rate/Yield of Landrace vs Modern in Organic Systems:
The selected landraces yielded higher than the modern check cultivars in organic systems over a three year period. At the seeding rate of 15 lbs per acre in organic soil, the landrace wheats yielded higher than the modern check AC Maxine and Polish Zyta. Landrace wheats yielded higher than the conventional wheats at wide 8 inch spacing of 15 lbs per acre. Landrace yield did not continue to increase at the conventional dense spacing of 75 lbs per acre, whereas the modern cultivar, bred with fewer tillers, did increase in yield at 75 lbs/acre. The highest landrace yield was produced at 8 inch spacing between each seed. The 12 inch spacing of 5 lbs/acre produced the largest plants, however some seedheads were as large as baby ears of corn whereas side seedheads were stunted and small. This spacing is optimal for seed-saving elite seeds. At 10 inch spacing the large and small seed heads differences were less pronounced. At 8 inch spacing all the seedheads were equal, producing the highest quality yield.

The higher yielding varieties Banatka, Bezbanat and Canaan Rouge yielded between 800 to 1000 seeds per plant. An average of 8.8 seeds planted produced 1 pound of seed at 12” spacing. See attached yield chart. Wide spacing reduces seed requirements (up to 95%), saving the farmer money.

Fusarium continues to be a limiting factor, especially in moist seasons such as 2009 and 2011. We decreased fusarium infection by combining three methods:

1. Saving seeds from the most resistant plants,
2. Soil management with disease-suppressive compost managed at lower temperature so as to host earthworm populations, combined with cover-cropping with Pacific Gold Mustard prior to wheat, and
3. Cleaning out lighter, infected seed by winnowing-out lighter seed, using a clipper and gravity table.

Selected landrace varieties such as Rouge de Bordeaux and Canaan Rouge had a significantly lower incidence of fusarium. A clipper seed cleaner reduced the level of fusarium by 85%. There was a consistently lower incidence of fusarium at the 15 lbs/acre in comparison to the 75 lbs/acre. Refer to attached: 'Developing Fusarium-Resistant Landraces - A Gift from Georgia’.

Spring vs Winter Growth Habit:
In northern New England and upper NY state, spring wheat tends to have more stable yields, however mid-New England favors winter wheat. This is consistent with European regions wherein Scandanavian regions tend to grow spring varieties, and mid-Europe, ie France, England and Germany tend to grow winter varieties. Therefore we are focusing on winter wheat.

In pure line varieties diseases tended to spread epidemically when all plants are the same. However in the mixtures where was great diversity of resistances within the population, we found a lower rate of fusarium infection. The yield was an average of 8% higher than the pure varieties. The variable heights of mixtures let in more light, promoting greater photosynthetic activity on the whole plant. The slight differences in nutrient uptake of diverse mixes of plant may also enhance overall nutrient utilization.

Adaptability to Stress:
Winter einkorn (T. monococcum) and emmer (T. dicoccon) performed better in the lowest fertility field, located in southern Vermont, whereas all other wheat varieties performed poorly. Einkorn and emmer exhibited the greatest resistant to fusarium. Ancient grains’ capacity to perform under stressed conditions is important as northeast farmers face increasingly unpredictable weather extremes. Einkorn, and emmer have high protein content, make superior breads, noodles and flatbreads, and have a richer flavor than modern wheats. Einkorn may be safer for some gluten allergies.

Climate Resilience:
Landrace wheats grown at wider spacing developed extensive root systems with enhanced capacity to reach down to lower levels of soil moisture during drought. During torrential rainfall, extensive root systems help anchor the plant, preventing lodging. After three years of selection, we observed an increased adaptability to weather extremes as measured by less lodging under heavy rain and greater tolerance to drought stress as measured by leaf color and overall plant robustness giving stable high yield with competitive grain protein.

Weed-Suppressive Capacity - Allelopathy
Plants compete for space, light, and nutrients in order to survive and reproduce. Alleleopathy is any direct or indirect harmful or beneficial effects of one plant one another. We observed that in winter landrace wheats, there tends to be a negative allelopathic effect on weeds in an average of 5 inches around the root of the wheat. There were fewer weeds around each root stalks as compared to the weeds beyond the 5” diameter. We did not observe allelopathic weed suppression in spring wheat. This effect varies greatly between varieties. Einkorn exhibited the highest weed suppressive capacity.

Weed Management Strategies
Weeds are a significant problem in organically managed wheat. We found that tall winter wheats can have a competitive advantage over spring weeds due to out-competing the weeds for light. We implemented a three year rotation of ‘covercrop- wheat-vegetables’ that integrated two plowings of weeds after the cover crop was tilled under, right before the wheat was planted. Clover that was undersown in the wheat plots successfully suppressed weeds. In addition, we selected winter landrace wheats for greater height without lodging and with greater allelopathy as a strategy to compete with weeds. Although some varieties, such as Zyta and a Hungarian genepool, yielded well, they were eliminated solely due to shortness.

The relationship of protein and quality are critical in artisan grains. The landraces had competitive protein levels, and superior baking quality for artisan breads at their highest yielding spacing of 15 lbs/acre.

B. TRAINING - See Outreach Section

Primary field sites were established at the MOFGA Common Ground, Unity, Maine, the SIT Farm in Brattleboro, VT, Crimson Clover Farm, Bainbridge, NY, Colrain Seed Farm, Colrain, MA and at the UMass Research Farm, Amherst. MA. In addition, 36 farmers and gardeners established small-scale trials to multiply and select landrace wheats.

Baking trials of ancient and heritage grains were conducted by Jim Amaral-Borealis Bakery, Maine, the Iraqui Bakery, Portland, Maine, John Melquist - Trukenbrod Bakery, VT, Ben Lester - Wheatberry Bakery, Amherst, MA, Don Lewis, Wild Hive Bakery, Clinton, NY, and Eli Rogosa, Mystic Sheaf Bakery, Massachusetts. Of all the varieties and species trialed, the consensus was that einkorn has superior baking quality flavor and nutritional value. Banatka, Rouge de Bordeaux and Canaan Rouge heritage wheats had exceptional baking quality with rich flavor. Refer to the attached Data Chart for nutritional values. The market demand for einkorn, emmer and heritage wheats surpasses its supply at this time.

Participation Summary


Educational approach:

Summer Field Days
Each year field days were conducted to showcase the trials and disseminate improved seed at our Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Maine sites. Annual fall workshops were conducted at MOFGA Common Ground, NOFA-MA and in the NY Green Market Local Grains initiative.

Summer Conferences
Four annual summer conferences were conducted each year at our main trial sites. Farmers and gardeners were guided on the practical skills to evaluate the whole plant, resurrent-mass selection, disease ID, seed cleaning and storage.

A ‘Baking with Heritage Grains’ workshop/exhibit was conducted each year at the annual Kneading summer conference. An exhibit, taste testing and Restoring Landrace Wheat workshop was conducted each Fall at the MOFGA Common Ground Fair. We won the best educational exhibit for four years running.

Winter Workshops
Each winter, we conducted workshops and/or exhibits at Maine, Vermont, New York and Massachusetts winter conferences.

NY - Summer, 2008:
To promote information exchange between growers, bakers, and consumers and to increase capacity for wheat production and processing, a field day was held in July in the Hudson Valley, NY on the farm of Alton Ernhart, a grower-cooperator. 85 participants viewed wheat production, seed-cleaning and milling techniques and tasted breads made from varieties grown at the farm. Bread made from a soft wheat variety was included in the tasting. Interest in using heritage soft white and red wheats, the traditional wheats used in bread-making in colonial New York, was rekindled. This has significant impact on regional wheat production since high rainfall local growing conditions tend to produce softer rather than the harder wheat protein levels of lower rainfall Midwest conditions. Information sheets on organic wheat and spelt production and setting up a replicated wheat variety trial on-farm were disseminated to interested growers.

NY - Fall, 2008:
To involve growers in the on-farm trialing process, field tours were conducted at the following sites in cooperation with NOFA-NY: Participants toured - replicated trial of 21 heritage soft white and red winter wheat varieties developed in NY State was planted at the Cornell Willsboro Farm in northern NY (Essex County). Replicated strip trials of modern hard red winter wheat varieties were established on two farms: one in western New York (Erie County), the other in Northeastern Pennsylvania (Montour County). The five varieties trialed (3 per farm) were selected after consultation with the cooperating farmers, Canadian organic growers, and NOW colleagues. A field-scale demonstration of three of the varieties was also planted on a farm in western NY (Orleans County). In addition, small plot demonstrations of winter wheat varieties, both heritage and modern cultivars, were established on three farms and a community garden in central and eastern NY (Otsego, Madison, Schenectady, and Delaware Counties).

Maine - Summer, 2008:
To involve growers and researchers in evaluating wheat trials, a summer field day of the NOW wheat trials at MOFGA, Unity, Maine was conducted in cooperation with the Organic Seed Alliance. Guest presenters Steve Jones and Steve Zwinger. 54 farmers and gardeners participated. The group evaluated 96 heritage and modern wheats procured from USDA- GRIN. The highest yielding and most disease resistant was Siberian Spring, grown in 1800, Maine. We planted 8 Red Fife samples procured from GRIN and local growers. The sample collected directly from Galicia, known in its region of origins as ‘Halychanka’ Galician Spring was the highest yielder and most robust.

Maine - Fall, 2008:
To involve farmers, gardeners and community members in the excitement of restoring almost-lost landrace species of wheat, we displayed a NOW heritage wheat exhibit at the Common Ground Fair, and won the first prize for best educational exhibit for four years running from 2008 to 2012. A fall NOW workshop was conducted at the Common Ground Fair involving 65 farmers and gardeners. Seed samples were distributed.

Massachusetts - Fall, 2008
To involve extension and foster regional cooperation: Eli Rogosa sent a set of our trial varieties to Elizabeth Dyck, NOFA-NY and to Heather Darby, UVM, VT. Eli planted 96 winter landrace wheat genebank accessions procured from GRIN and samples from European cooperators at the UMass Research Farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts and at MOFGA, Unity, Maine.

MA - Spring, 2009
To involve research, growers and bakers in on-farm trials and breeding, an Organic Wheat Breeding Seminar was conducted by Eli Rogosa at the UMass Farm. Data was collected from the on-farm trials established in fall of 2008. We observed that winter wheats perform better than spring wheats in southern New England. We rogued-out about 80 percent of the plants, leaving the elite plants for future multiplications and crossing.

Vermont, Fall, 2009 - present
To restore the New England heritage of wheat, Eli Rogosa researched the wheat breeding work of Cyrus Pringle, a 1800s Vermont botanist. She was able toprocure accessions of Pringles wheats and oats from the USDA genebank and sent these rare seeds to Healther Darby and Jack Lazor, who grew them out. Today the Red Hen Bakery in Vermont offer ‘Cyrus Pringle Bread’ baked from these rare varieties rediscovered by Eli Rogosa.

NY - Winter, 2009:
Taste of Local Grain Conference
International Culinary Institute, New York City, Jan, 2009
A conference to build local grain market partnerships was conducted by Northeast Organic Wheat in cooperation with the NYC Greenmarket (Council on the Environment of New York City). Eli Rogosa opened the program with a keynote workshop on ‘Grain Terroir’. Flour quality and taste testing of promising wheats identified in our first year trials were conducted. 112 NYC-area bakers and growers attended.

NOFA-NY Winter Conference, January 20th, 2009?NOW-OGRIN Winter Workshop
Scaling-up the Northeast Grains System:
Linking Farmers, Millers, and Bakers
?A day-long workshop following the organic grains chain from seed to final product spanned four panel discussions. Topics covered included: growing high-value grains; identifying and sourcing varieties; building farmer-miller-baker relationships; and making local grains work for your bakery.

NY - Spring - Summer, 2009
To help farmers and bakers assess the potential of growers to produce high quality wheat for baking, grain samples were analyzed for protein content, falling number, and vomitoxin (the latter was essential to test given the widespread incidence of Fusarium in the 2009 season). The results of this testing show that organic growers can meet the quality standards set by bakers and millers, i.e., protein content for hard red varieties of 11-12.5%, falling numbers above 300 seconds, and vomitoxin below 1 ppm. Eighteen hard red spring wheat samples collected from seven farms averaged 12.8% protein and 324 seconds in terms of falling number (see attachment Table 3). In terms of vomitoxin, 55% of the samples tested were below the suggested limit for vomitoxin. Growers identified the need for improved management practices and improved infrastructure for drying and cleaning grain to improve and maintain high grain quality.

The replicated trial of three hard red winter wheat varieties showed no differences in yield (which averaged 56 bu/A) but significant differences in grain quality. A hard red spring wheat trial was established on farm comparing two modern varieties with the heritage variety Red Fife. The Red Fife yielded as well as the modern varieties (an average of 34 bu/A) and had good grain quality (12.4 % protein, 337 seconds falling number) but was negatively affected by Fusarium. A trial comparing hard red winter varieties to Red Fife planted in the fall was established on four cooperating farms.

Maine, Spring, 2009
MOFGA - Spring Growth Field Day
To involve growers in on on-farm breeding and seed-saving, Eli Rogosa conducted a field tour of the NOW landrace wheat trials and workshop at MOFGA. (32 participants)

Summer Kneading Conference
Eli Rogosa conducted a Heritage Wheat workshop with an exhibit on Restoring Landrace Wheat at the Kneading Conference, Skowhegan, Maine. Each year baking quality tests were conducted by Jim Amaral with our grain trial harvests.

MOFGA - Fall Common Ground Fair
NOW Heritage Grain Exhibit was viewed by hundreds of participants. Eli Rogosa conducted a ‘Restoring Landrace Wheat’ workshop and disseminated elite seed from the trials - 86 participants.

Massachusetts - Summer, 2009
A field day to tour the NOW-UMass trials was conducted at the UMass Research Farm involving 70 growers and bakers. Participants traveled from as far away as Vermont and New Jersey to procure elite seed and tour the site. A local team was established to build harvest, storage, milling and marketing infrastructure in cooperation with NESFI.

Brattleboro, VT, A NOW wheat trial site was established at the SIT Farm, Brattleboro, VT in cooperation with Steve Hed, lead farmer.


January 2010
Grain Summit at NOFA-NY Conference - NOW co-conducted a regional grain a day-long grain pre-conference at the NOFA-NY’s 2010 Farming and Gardening conference.

NY - January, 2010
Grain Panel and Bread Tasting - Greenmarket and Northeast Organic Wheat conducted a conference on ‘Taste of Local Grains’. Grain researchers, local growers and processors came together with distillers, brewers and many of the city's top bakers and chefs, to discuss the current state of grain production, quality and processing in our region, and wrestle with the issues and barriers around developing a regional grain system.

In April, 2010, the NYC Greenmarket adapted a rule that all participating bakers must use at least 15% locally grown flour in their products.

NY - Nov, 2010
To build demand for regionally grown grains, Greenmarket/GrowNYC and Northeast Organic Wheat co-sponsored Grains Week in Nov, 2010 that involved seven days of collaborative programming to promote the re-emergence of local grains in our regional food system. As part of the week-long programming, a workshop on ‘Baking with Ancient Grains - Tasting Emmer and Einkorn’ was conducted by Eli Rogosa reaching 45 NYC bakers at the Brooklyn Kitchen. Rogosa’s Heritage wheat display and outreach booth at the Green Market’s Local Grain celebration disseminated samples of einkorn breads and pastries to hundreds of hungry New Yorkers.

To involve Vermont and regional growers, NOW hosted an exhibit and disseminated seed at the UVM March Grain Conference.

SIT - A NOW summer field day was conducted at the SIT Farm, Brattleboro, VT in cooperation with Steve Hed, lead farmer - 48 farmers and gardeners attended.

August, 2010 - Dr. Anders Borgen, a landrace wheat researcher from Denmark, Elizabeth Dyck, Glenn Roberts, Anson Mills, Ellen Mallory, and Eli Rogosa conducted a training workshop at SIT, Brattleboro, VT (36 participants) and at MOFGA, Unity, Maine (45 participants).

Summer Kneading - Eli Rogosa conducted a Heritage Wheat workshop with an exhibit on Restoring Landrace Wheat at the Kneading Conference, Skowhegan, Maine. Each year baking quality tests were conducted by Jim Amaral with our grain trial harvests.

MOFGA - Common Ground
NOW Heritage Grain Exhibit and ‘Restoring Heritage Wheat’ workshop by Eli Rogosa We disseminated seed and educational materials to 86 participants.

The two day Mid-New England ‘Bread, Beer and Biodiversity’ summer conference was conducted at the UMass Farm and the Colrain field site reaching 75 researcher, millers, growers and bakers. Our three acres of landrace and modern UMass grain trials were showcased. Participants walks the field plots to evaluate wheat plants for disease ID/resistance, weed competition-allelopathy, tasting-chew tests, and yield. Populations genetics, rogueing/selecting, how to cross self-pollinating wheats, harvesting and storage were covered.


New York
To further information exchange between growers and end users, three winter workshops were held around the state: at Rochester, NY, as part of the NOFA-NY annual winter conference (48 participants), at Potsdam, NY, in collaboration with Garden Share (45 participants), and in Riverhead, NY (32 participants). During the summer, five field days were held: at Cornell’s Willsboro Farm (Willsboro, NY) to view the heritage variety trial and emmer landrace trial (29 participants), at Cayuga Pure Organics (Brooktondale, NY) to discuss wheat production and Farmer Ground Flour, the new milling operation owned by farmers (32 participants), at White Frost Farm (Washingtonville, PA) at an event co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture to view the integration of wheat production into an organic vegetable farm (48 participants), at Oxbow Organic Farm (Hunt, NY) to tour a highly diversified grain farm and view an array of cleaning and drying equipment (25 participants), and at Crimson Clover Farm (Bainbridge, NY) to hold a demonstration of techniques for small-scale wheat production and processing (16 participants).


SIT - A field trial day to involve local growers was conducted at the SIT Farm, Brattleboro, VT in cooperation with Steve Hed. ( 42 participants)

UVM - A Northeast Organic Wheat exhibit was displayed at the UVM Grain Conference in March. Seed was distributed to 26 growers.

Kneading - Eli Rogosa conducted a Heritage Wheat workshop with an exhibit on Restoring Landrace Wheat at the Kneading Conference, Skowhegan, Maine. Each year baking quality tests were conducted by Jim Amaral with our grain trial harvests.

MOFGA - Common Ground
NOW Heritage Grain Exhibit and Restoring Landrace Wheat workshop by Eli Rogosa - 132 participants received seed packets.

Massachusetts - Spring, 2011
A farmer-research seminar was conducted by the NOW-UMass Extension team in Hadley, MA to identify goals, barriers and strategic solutions for local grain production. Local growers, bakers and CISA developed a program to develop a local Pioneer Valley brand identity.

Massachusetts - Summer, 2011
To exchange knowledge and skills, a ‘Bread, Beer and Biodiversity’ summer conference was conducted at the UMass Research Farm with a field tour of the UMass and Colrain field sites - 62 researchers, growers and bakers. Dr. Abdullah Jaradat, the USDA expert in Landrace wheat presented a three hour seminar. Bakers Jim Amaral, John Melquist, Don Lewis and David Neifeld conducted a panel and demonstrated how to adjust proportions for local grain variability.

UMass Video showcasing our Organic Wheat program:

New York - January, 2012
At the day-long NOFA-NY winter Grain Day pre-conference, Eli Rogosa presented the results of the NOW trials, and displayed an exhibit of the elite landrace wheatsheaves, with taste-testing of our best yielders, and einkorn bread.

Massachusetts - April, 2012
Chefs Collaborative and NOW co-hosted a Boston conference, April 24, 2012 ‘It all Comes Down to Grain’ From pastas made with farro and buckwheat flour and breads baked with einkhorn, to beer and spirits featuring local and organic wheat and barley, grains--the critical missing link in many local, sustainable food systems--are back on the map.

Join Chefs Collaborative on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 to explore the culinary possibilities of organic and heritage grains. We'll taste beer and spirits, bread made with flour from ancient grains, and unique grain-based dishes from a handful of chefs in the area. We'll talk about the history of grain production in this country--and how small-scale local production is slowly making a comeback. We'll discuss cooking with a range of whole grains, how to source them, and how growers are finding a market for their products in restaurants, bakeries, breweries, and distilleries around New England.

Presenters include Eli Rogosa of the Heritage Grain Conservancy; Liz L'Etoile of Four Star Farms in Northfield, MA; Maria Speck, author of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals; Tim Wiechmann from T.W. Food; Maura Kilpatrick from Sofra Bakery and Café; and people from Hungry Mother; Valley Malt in Hadley, MA; and Bully Boy Distillers.

Maine - Summer, 2012
Culminating NOW Summer Conference - ‘Restoring Landrace Wheat’
with Gary Nabhan, Eli Rogosa, Will Bonsall, Mark Fulford, Ellen Mallory
Friday, June 22, 11 AM - 7 PM, MOFGA.ORG, Unity, Maine

Our flyer stated: ‘Join us to restore the biodiversity of wheat for community seed systems. Modern wheat, bred in agrochemical-soaked fields for uniformity and high gluten, has replaced the rich biodiversity of landrace wheats worldwide.  As we face unprecedented weather extremes, burgeoning gluten allergies and patented wheats that farmers cannot save, the almost-lost biodiversity of ancient and heritage wheats offers a community-based alternative for organic farmers and gardeners. However our landrace wheats are threatened, many on the verge of extinction.’ Elite seed was dissemianted to the 56 participants.


1. Scientific Poster
2. Project Interim Report - Rogosa and UMass Team
3. Scientific Paper - Evolutionary Ecological Grain Production
4. How to Cross-Pollinate Wheat
5. Grain Husbandry Booklet
Vermont’s Heritage of Wheat

Conference Materials
Conference Proceedings 2010 - Bread, Beer and Biodiversity
Conference Proceedings 2011 - Restoring Landrace Wheat
Conference 2012 - Restoring Landrace Wheat - GROW

No milestones

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

Since Green Revolution modern dwarf wheats were introduced, ancient and heritage wheats have been neglected and underutilized, replaced by modern wheats world-wide. Many are on the verge of extinction. Today consumer interest in 'Local Terroir' and 'Gluten-Safe’ alternatives has created an expanding market demand for landrace wheat. Our trials have documented that selected landraces perform better than modern cultivars in organic systems, however the available supply of seed is limited. Our project has generated superior selected genepools. We will continue to work with growers and researchers to multiply and select the seeds.

Weather has a substantial influence on agroecosystem productivity. Wheat is sensitive to climate changes, so adaptability to weather extremes is a key desirable trait in our breeding program. Yield stability over years of fluctuating climate extremes has priority over the quantitative aspects of yield in any particular year. Enhancing the climate resilience in wheat involves increasing the genetic diversity within crop populations by planting varietal mixtures and genepools with greater buffering capacity, and selecting for robust plants with durable disease resistances in fields with greater disease pressures.

Fusarium is the greatest pressure in the Northeast due to our typical rainy weather, susceptible cultivars and crop residues lift on the soil. When moisture is high at flowering and grain filling, tiny spores of Fusarium infect the spike. Grains contaminated with fusarium vomitoxin (aka DON) have reduced quality, flavor and yield. Flour mills will reject grain with more than 2 parts per million of DON. Growers recognize fusarium in the field by the bleached out white spikes that may ooze pinkish-orange spores. Infected heads have shriveled, lighter weight seeds. See attachment - 'Gift From Georgia’

Although the cost of seed is small, the seed quality affects yield more than any factor. It is a great challenge to grow disease-free grains from farmer-saved seed. The safety of grains for human consumption and the market value is dependent on disease-free grains with good protein and baking quality. Seed saved by farmers runs a higher risk of contamination by disease or weed seeds, so great care must be taken to test the seed and know its history. Farmers should only plant saved seed that is free of weed seed and disease with high germination vigor. Grain to be planted should be tested for the key parameters of protein, falling number and vomitoxin-DON. Do not plant seed with vomitoxin of over 1 ppm. Distilleries or breweries may buy wheat that does not meet the 1 ppm vomitoxin limit. Seed should be carefully cleaned for unwanted weed-seed and tested for germination after harvest, to know if the seed is worth saving. Seed quality can change during storage, so testing right before planting is smart. Fungicidal seed treatment control many seed-borne diseases but few are organic approved. Modern cultivars come with extensive varietal data and certified disease-free seed. However since heritage farm-grown landraces bear greater variability, we advise to grow a test plot of a heritage variety to evaluate the seed quality and adaptability to your farm. Growers who are unable to assure high quality in their saved seed should buy professionally grown seed.

Economic Analysis

Economies of scale enable industrially-bred wheat to be produced cheaply, but with hidden costs. Not only did modern wheat cultivars under-perform the landraces in three years of organic trials in our project, but the net value of locally-produced organic grains, einkorn, emmer and landrace wheat, has increased by an average of 30 cents per pound or $600 per acre. This reflects an increase in the net value of organic local loaves produced by regional bakers. Consumers tend to place higher value on a ‘local loaf’. Bakers seek the higher quality terroir, flavor and gluten-safty of landrace wheats emmer and einkorn. Additionally, more small-scale growers and home gardeners are integrating locally-adapted heritage wheat into their farms and gardens for family use, thereby increasing the value of their on-farm economy.

Although starting with only 5 grams of seed procured from a genebank, landrace wheat offers potentially rapid multiplications with high economic potential. The top varieties from trials in 2009-2011 required as few as 10-15 plants to produce 1 lb. of seeds when heavily selected at 10%. Multiplications from top 10% of selections produced between 400 to 1,000 seeds. The highest yielders, Banatka (bred by Rogosa), Bezbanat (bred by Rogosa), Canaan Rouge (a French Landrace) and Rogosa (Bred by Rogosa) multiplied between 800 and 1,000.

Spacing trials produced greater variation in seedhead size at 12" spacing, but was consistent at 8 in. spacing. Planting at 8" spacing of 15 lbs/acre and harvesting all the grain can easily result in a multiplication of at least 75 or 100 if not higher. Thus in two years 75 squared means a multiplication of 5,625 and 100 squared of 10,000. At 100 multiplication a 5 gram packet produces 1.1 lb. the first year and 110 lb. in year 2 and five
tons in year three!

Thus, the limiting production factors quickly become available land, weed control, scale-suitable threshing tools and available markets. Rapid multiples create the possibility for backyard, homestead scale and small farm wheat productions as a self-sufficiency sideline. At 12 in. spacing 100 square ft. (a 10x10 ft plot) would permit 100 plants with a likely yield of at least 5 lb. and a potential high yield of 10 lb. grain. A modest 1000 sq. ft. plot (33.3X30 ft.)
will allow 1,000 plants that could produce 50-100 lb. of grain, enough for as much as two loaves of bread per week for the entire year. At 8 in. spacing such a plot could contain 2,250 plants with an even higher yield. Thus, cheap appropriate technology for this scale becomes a particularly significant need.

Even with a big gap between optimal results per plant (which will require some rogueing and selection) and field run results, the economic potential of high-value landrace grains is tremendous, especially when combined with their high market value due to greater flavor and safer gluten.

Commercial growers need to find or create markets to achieve a premium over commodity grain varieties to make the enterprise worthwhile. Further study is needed to evaluate: How much yield per lb. is needed for a feasible commercial crop? How many bakers and other end-users are willing to pay niche premiums?

Hulled grains such as emmer and einkorn are excellent to use for malting, since the hulls help filter the mash and prevent clumping. The enterprising Hadley Malt House in Massachusetts is single-handedly developing a regional niche-market for local malt, leading the way for market demand in artisanal local brews. We malted 300 lbs of einkorn in the hull at the Hadley Malt House, and are experimenting with einkorn beer recipes.

Farmer Adoption

There has been a high level of farmer engagement and ownership. When our project started, landrace wheat biodiversity was unknown in New England, save for the lone Red Fife. As a result of the information presented in our conferences and field days showcasing the superior performance of selected landraces compared to modern cultivars, landrace seed is being planted at wider spacing, saved and exchanged by increasing numbers of growers and gardeners. Most of the 24 farmers and 75 gardeners that trialed samples have returned seed to build our community seed bank. Farmers confirmed the superior performance at low seeding rates, saying ‘Eli, your lighter seeding rate worked better than my dense seeding rate. I got higher yield and less disease. I learned alot from this project. Thank you!’ Most of the farmers that trialed our selected genepools are continuing to grow them on their own. The limiting factor is not farmer adoption, but availability of certified landrace grains.

Our lead trial farmer, Klaas Martens, who multiplied a few lbs of einkorn to 1500 lbs observed that ‘The yield of Eli’s improved einkorn variety is nothing short of phenomenal! Not only does the this strain of einkorn not lodge, but there were almost no weeds in our einkorn field. It has a powerful allelopathic weed suppression, and at least a 100x multiplication rate'

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

The value of landrace grains is increasing among researchers, growers, bakers, and consumers. Areas needing additional study include:

1. Characterizing GRIN Landrace Wheat Accessions in Organic Systems:
A coordinated program is urgently needed to increase the characterization, selection and breeding for organic adaptability and climate resilience, drawing on the vast numbers of neglected landrace grain accessions in the USDA genebank. The alleleopathic effect of root exudates that suppress weeds needs to be further studies and rated. Our project has scratched the surface.

2. Enhancing the Climate Resilience of Whole Farm Systems with Landrace Grains:
There is need to advance strategies for climate change resilience that exploit the hardiness of landrace grains. With wider spacing and good soil tilth, landrace wheat roots can grow deeper than modern cultivars in conventional systems. Extensive root systems enable the landrace to better survive the drought, heat and rain extremes of climate change, and produce stable yields of quality grains. Deeper landrace root systems can reach lower soil moisture, a critical mechanism to avoid heat stress under higher temperatures, and can decrease lodging in rainy weather.

Ancient hulled grains, such as winter emmer and winter einkorn, demonstrated greatest resilience to biotic and abiotic stress of weather extremes. We are focusing on multiplying these hardy grains as a food security safety net for unprecedented weather weather problems.

3. Breeding for Human Heath:
The alarming rise in gluten allergies reflects the need for wheat breeding programs to address human health and nutrition. There is great potential to exploit ancient gluten-safe grains and to breed ancient and heritage grains for lower celiac stimulatory epitopes.

4. Community Seedbanks:
The value of community seedbanks as a bridge between genebanks and field utilization is critical. Maintenance of landrace wheat in genebanks is essential for long-term preservation, a key link in a long change of actors needed preserve threatened crops. However today, the vast collections of landrace seeds stored in world genebanks are available in tiny amounts of 1 gram to 5 grams of seeds, and then only if farmers know how to navigate the complex system designed for researchers and plant breeders. Community seed systems fostered the dynamic evolutionary processes of natural mutation, natural and human selection and adaptability. Additionally, there are yet vast amounts of uncollected material in remote fields in the Mideast and Europe. Time is short.

5. On-Farm Conservation and Breeding for Organic Systems:
Organic farmers and gardeners need training in evolutionary on-farm conservation and selection. To maintain a population’s vitality, the role of small-scale farmers and gardeners in landrace wheat’s evolution is essential. Just as wild crop vitality cannot be maintained in cold storage, the ecological dynamics of natural adaptation to the environment and climate change, co-evolution with plants-pest-pathogen and farmer selection for durable resistances and culinary quality are integral components of a landrace’s total evolutionary system.

6. Building Local Infrastructure and Market Partnerships:
There is a lack of small-scale processing and storage equipment. This need reflect a new market for appropriate-technology treadle threshers, and other small-scale processing equipment and skills.

7. Market-based Strategies for Genetic Conservation - ‘Eat it to Save it.'
Landrace Food Product Development

Utilization of Northeast-grown landrace grains is an opportunity to develop new products and markets for landrace cuisine. Locally-grown landrace flour tends to be lower in protein and gluten extensibility than Midwest-grown uniform flour blends. Dryer Midwest climate tend to produce higher protein grains. Fluctuating local climate and rainfall generate fluctuating flour quality. Bakers will benefit from learning how traditional bakers adapt recipes and proportions. New food products can be developed with landrace grains include roasted spring green wheat, beverages, historic and ethnic baked goods using authentic traditional grains.

We will continue to work intensively to collect, characterize landraces and develop breeding genepools for foundation seed quality, involve more farmers in on-farm selection, publish our results for wider dissemination, and pilot new food products to utilize our material. We welcome interested NE growers and bakers to contact us to be involved.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.