Growing and Marketing Ancient Grains in Wyoming

Progress report for OW19-340

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2019: $49,995.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G243-19-W7502
Grant Recipient: University of Wyoming
Region: Western
State: Wyoming
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Caitlin Youngquist
University of Wyoming
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Project Information

Abstract:

Growing and Marketing Ancient Grains in Wyoming

The state of Wyoming is a challenging place to farm due to low soil fertility and quality, saline and alkaline soils, arid conditions, high crop evapotranspiration demands, and isolation from markets. The soil, climate, geographical, and sociopolitical conditions that have historically limited crop diversity and adoption of more common sustainable farming practices like reduced tillage, cover crops, and water conservation.

Ancient grains are early predecessors of modern grain varieties and include spelt, emmer, and einkorn. The market for these grains has seen rapid growth over the last decade due to their nutritional qualities and flavor profiles. They are reported to require lower water and nutrient inputs than modern varieties and are expected to thrive in Wyoming.

Our work with ancient grains is part of the “Wyoming First Grains” project, a research and economic development effort of the University of Wyoming. There is strong institutional support for this effort and the response from growers, brewers, and commercial bakers has been very positive. Our goal is to leverage this support and enthusiasm and work with producers to build strong local markets for viable low-input grain crops that thrive on Wyoming farms. We will establish field trials on five farms and three research stations, host a series of workshops on baking and cooking with ancient grains, develop extension bulletins and a cooking video, and work with malters, brewers, and commercial bakers to develop markets.

This project will study the nitrogen and water demands of spelt, emmer, and einkorn; evaluate crop performance in three growing regions of the state, quantify costs and benefits associated with growing ancient grains in Wyoming; assess impacts of growing conditions on grain quality; develop local markets for cooking, baking, malting, and brewing with ancient grains; and support the establishment of associated industries.

 

Project Objectives:
  1. Identify best practices for growing einkorn, emmer, and spelt in Wyoming under a variety of conditions. April 2019 – August 2020.
    1. Foster grower innovation and learning by establishing field trials on six farms that include a combination of dryland, irrigated, conventional, no-till, and Certified Organic production systems.
    2. Determine the resource needs of einkorn, emmer, and spelt by measuring crop response to three nitrogen fertility rates on three University of Wyoming research stations under dryland and irrigated conditions.
    3. Identify sustainable production practices by compiling data from across all farm and research station trials on yield, grain quality, lodging, crop water and nutrient use, and cost of production.
  2.  
  3. Communicate best practices for growing einkorn, emmer, and spelt grain in Wyoming. September 2019 – April 2021.
    1. Host summer field days where collaborating producers, researchers, producers, and consumers can share knowledge and engage in discussion.
    2. Present findings at winter grower meetings.  
    3. Publish a UW Extension Bulletin, write state and regional articles, and create educational videos on growing ancient grains in Wyoming.
  4. Identify and develop regional markets for food and malt produced from einkorn, emmer, and spelt. August 2019 – April 2021
    1. Host workshops for consumers and culinary professionals on cooking and baking with ancient grains and incorporating these alternative grains into their products.
    2. Publish a UW Extension Bulletin and create consumer videos on cooking and baking with ancient grains.
    3. Work with Wyoming Malting to provide Neolithic® brand malted spelt, emmer, and einkorn along with promotional materials to Wyoming craft breweries.
Timeline:

This will be a two year project and will start with spring planting in April and May of 2019. Participating producers are committed to growing at least one of the ancient grain crops each year. Field days will be held during the summer and project updates will be shared at grower meetings in the winter. Baking workshops will also be held in the winter. Final publications will be completed in the spring of the second year, and an abstract will be submitted to the National Association of County Agriculture Agents for presentation at their summer meeting.

Please see the include Project Timeline.

 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Michael Baker - Producer
  • Dr. Laura Balis (Educator)
  • Dr. Carrie Eberle (Researcher)
  • Thomas Foulke (Researcher)
  • Derek Jackson - Producer
  • Gary Koltiska - Producer
  • Nathaniel Powell-Palm - Producer
  • Bonnie Randoph, MD - Producer
  • Dr. Mark Sorrells - Technical Advisor
  • Steve Zwinger - Technical Advisor

Research

Materials and methods:

Data from farm and research station trials will be compiled on yield, grain quality, lodging, water and nutrient use, and production costs. Information will be presented at grower meetings and field days and used to write a UW Extension bulletin. On-station research will include all crops, both years. On-farm trials will have flexibility in grain selection over the two years based on grower input.  Four ancient grain varieties will be evaluated:

  1. Spring emmer var. Lucile from Montana State University Foundation Seed. This variety was grown at three UW research stations in 2018 and a top performing varieties in organic grain trials conducted by project collaborators Dr. Sorrels and Mr. Zwinger.
  2. Spring spelt var. CDC Origin from the University of Saskatchewan. This variety was grown at three University of Wyoming research stations in 2018 and performed well.
  3. Winter spelt var. Sun Gold was purchased from Byron Seeds in Indiana and is a high quality food grade spelt with a short height.
  4. Einkorn var. Stone Age was purchased from a grower in Nebraska who has successfully grown it as both a spring and fall planted grain.

On-Farm Trials

Following UW field days in 2018 that highlighted emmer and spelt, several growers expressed interest in growing ancient grains. On-farm plots will range in size from 1 to 3 acres per variety and will include a combination of dryland, irrigated, conventional, no-till, and certified organic production systems (Plot diagram). Plot size will depend on seed availability and grower preference. The producers are committed to growing at least one of the ancient grain crops each year of this project, but can adjust plot size and cultivar in the second year based on their first year experience. The crop will be managed by the growers based on previous grain growing experience, recommendations from specialists, and coordination with Dr. Youngquist.

Pre-plant and post-harvest soil samples will be collected at two depths on all farms to help determine fertility needs and crop nutrient use. Soil water content will be measured before planting and after harvest of the dryland farm trials. Additionally, Dr. Youngquist will work with growers to gather observations and recommendations about the agronomic performance of their crops.

On-Station trials

Small research plots will be established at three University of Wyoming research stations representing the major crop regions of Wyoming: Lingle (SAREC), Powell (PREC), and Sheridan (ShREC). These trials will provide detailed information on crop nutrient requirements and water use efficiency that is not practical with the on-farm trials. Performance of the three ancient grain crops will be compared to malting barley at PREC and wheat at SAREC and ShREC, under management of Dr. Eberle and a graduate student. The research stations will host a combination of four trials each year:

  1. A fall seeded dryland trial (ShREC and SAREC)
  2. A fall seeded irrigated trial (ShREC, SAREC, and PREC)
  3. A spring seeded dryland trial (ShREC and SAREC)
  4. A spring seeded irrigated trial (ShREC, SAREC, and PREC)

On-station trials will be replicated randomized complete blocks with 3 nitrogen by 4 crop treatments. Data on stand, heading date, head height, lodging, pest pressure, harvest date, yield, and grain quality will be taken at all three sites. Soil gravimetric water content will be measured in the dryland trials pre-plant and post-harvest. The trials at SAREC will include soil moisture sensors and will receive more intensive soil nutrient sampling than the other trials (3 depths to at least 24 inches). Intensive sampling will be conducted at SAREC because that is where Dr. Eberle and her research team are located.

Market Development

Market development will focus on malters, brewers, bakers, and cooks. UWE nutrition educators will work with Dr. Youngquist to educate home cooks and culinary professionals about cooking and baking with ancient grains. Information will be shared across existing UWE platforms including a blog, podcast, social media, the Eat Wyoming website, and popular press articles. UWE will host workshops across the state on using whole grains (with an emphasis on ancient grains) for home and professional bakers.

Wyoming Malting is an established business that provides malted grains for craft and home brewers. They have committed to malting and co-branding grains from the Wyoming First Grains project. The first batch of emmer and spelt (grown by UW researchers in 2018) will be malted and distributed to four Wyoming breweries in early 2019 under the Neolithic® brand. Along with the malt, promotional materials (table tents and coasters) will be distributed to brewers at no cost for the first 2 years. Wyoming is home to 24 craft breweries and is ranked 8th in the country for craft breweries per capita. The malt and brewery market development will be managed by Mr. Foulke and no Western SARE funding is requested for this part of the project.

Research results and discussion:

Project Deliverables

  1. On-farm plots ranging in size from 1 to 3 acres will be established on five farms across the state. These will include a combination of dryland, irrigated, conventional, no-till, and certified organic production systems. Crop condition and nutrient and water use will be recorded.
    • On-farm trials were completed on 5 farms in 2019 and 2020, and one farm in 2021.
    • Farmer observations were collected and will be included in a University of Wyoming Extension bulletin (currently in draft form).
    • Water use data was not collected for the farm trials. Soil fertility management varied by the farm. We intended to work with each farm to make specialized fertilizer recommendations but this proved impractical. One producer used manure, three producers did not want to apply fertilizer at all, and one used the same fertility as malting barley. We did collect a few pre-plant soil tests and shared the results with producers but this was not useful data for our research.
    • Crop-water use observations were collected from the producers who participated in the trials.
    •  
  2. Small research plots will be established at three UW research stations. These trials will provide detailed information about crop nutrient and water use.
    • This objective was met. The results are available in the three 2020 Field Day Bulletins included with this report.
    • The graduate student working on this project (no funded by WSARE) is publishing a peer reviewed journal article on her findings from the small research plots. The completed thesis is also included with this report.
    •  
  3. Three on-farm field days will be hosted each year.
    • Wyoming First Grains research was highlighted each year (2019, 2020, and 2021) at UW Field Days at three locations (Powell, Lingle, and Sheridan).
    •  
  4. Two UW Extension Bulletins will be published: “Growing Ancient Grains in Wyoming” and “Cooking and Baking with Ancient Grains”.
    • Both bulletins are in draft form and are not yet published. The draft bulletins are available upon request from the project PI.
    • We delayed the bulletin on growing grains to include information from one more growing season (2021). Two tables from this bulletin are included at the end of this progress report.
    •  
  5. Six workshops will be hosted by UWE on cooking and baking with ancient grains for consumers and culinary professionals (Winter 2019 and 2020).
    • We hosted two baking workshops in February 2020. The remainder of the workshops were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
    • We worked with the UW Food Safety and Nutrition team to host a series of “Baking with Ancient Grains” Facebook Live events in the spring of 2021.
    •  
  6. A cooking video for home cooks and bakers featuring one or more of the cooperating farms will be produced and published on the UWE YouTube channel (Winter 2020).
    • This was not completed due to restrictions on travel and face to face interaction.

 

Table 1. Yield and Production Practices for On-Farm Trials in Wyoming

County

Crop

 Yield of  grain in the hull (bu/A)

Yield of grain in the hull (lbs/A)1

Estimated yield of dehulled grain (lbs/A)1

Irrigation

Plant

Harvest

Production

Observations

Hot Springs

‘Lucile’ Emmer

  70  

2485

1765

Furrow

4/9/19

8/27/19

No fertilizer;

Only 2 irrigations needed vs 3 for barley; long-term no-till field; Palisade used as a growth regulator; swathed and then threshed in a windrow.

Weaker straw than einkorn, a little bit of lodging

Hot Springs

‘Stone Age’ Einkorn

 70  

2039

1244

Furrow

4/9/19

8/31/19

Very slow

Emergence.

Tall, stiff straw that cows preferred.

Washakie

‘Ethiopian Blue’ Emmer

172

1020

1020

Furrow

 

 

Same fertility management and herbicides as malting barley.

 

Growth regulator was applied to half the field.

Field with very gravelly soil. Very short plants. Emmer matured more quickly than spelt in the same field.

 

No lodging.

Washakie

‘Origine’ Spelt

112

3147

1919

Furrow

 

 

Sheridan

‘Ethiopian Blue’ Emmer

202

1200

1200

Dryland

4/22/19

8/24/19

No fertilizer; Certified Organic field and practices; direct seeded into wheat stubble; heavy weed pressure; threshed standing.

Ergot. This is a free threshing variety. A comparable yield to the ‘Lucile’ Emmer would be around 28 bu/A (70% kernel yield).

Sheridan

‘Origine’ Spelt

33

927

566

Dryland

3/31/20

8/4/20

No fertilizer; Certified Organic field and practices; direct seeded into wheat stubble; heavy weed pressure; threshed standing.

 

Sheridan

‘Stone Age’ Einkorn

69  

2010

1226

Dryland

4/22/19

8/30/19

No fertilizer; conventional tillage

 

Sheridan

‘Lucile’ Emmer

65   

2308

1639

Dryland

4/22/19

8/14/19

No fertilizer; conventional tillage

 

Sheridan

‘Origine’ Spelt

70  

1967

1200

Dryland

4/22/19

8/28/19

No fertilizer; conventional tillage

 

Platte

‘Lucile’ Emmer

37

1314

933

Dryland

4/8/19

8/28/19

Fertility: 30N-30P-15S at planting + 20N post emergence; conventional tillage.

 

 

 

Heavy shatter losses at harvest; harvesting a week earlier would have prevented some loss.

No visible difference in the following sunflower crop between emmer field and barley fields.

Platte

 

‘Stone Age’ Einkorn

58

1690

1031

Dryland

3/29/20

8/25/20

Fertility: 30N-30P-15S at planting

Poor stand.

Goshen

 

‘Stone Age’ Einkorn3

24

699

426

 Pivot

 9/24/19

7/22/20

Very poor stand establishment due to planter clogging with awns on hulled seed; target planting rate was 90lbs/A

 

Goshen

‘Lucile’ Emmer

6

213

130

Dryland

4/17/19

8/18/19

Manure applied pre-plant; planted at 73 lbs/A; very sandy, low organic matter soil;

poor stand, high weed pressure.

Used research plot combine to harvest, awns plugged the stalk walkers and made harvest challenging

1Based on average test weights and kernel loss values reported in Table 2.

2Naked grain

3Grown as a winter grain

 

Table 2. Yield and Production Practices for UW Research Station Trials in Wyoming

Location

Crop

Yield of grain in the hull (bu/A)

Yield of grain in the hull (lbs/A)1

Estimated yield of dehulled grain (lbs/A)1

Irrigation

Fertility

Plant Date

Harvest Date

Production Notes

PREC

‘Origine’ Spelt

108

3040

1854

Irrigated

 

018

 

 

 

‘Lucile’ Emmer

116

4128

2931

Irrigated

 

 

 

 

ShREC

‘Origine’ Spelt

49

1370

 

836

 

Irrigated

No fertilizer

5/10/18

9/6/18

 

 

‘Lucile’ Emmer

No harvest

 

 

Irrigated

No fertilizer

5/10/18

No harvest

Failed harvest due to birds

SAREC

‘Origine’ Spelt

62

1737

1060

Irrigated

75N-40P-40S-6.5 SO4- -1Zn

 

8/27/18

Swathed on 8/17

 

‘Lucile’ Emmer

41

1471

1044

Irrigated

75N-40P-40S-6.5 SO4- -1Zn

 

8/27/18

Swathed on 8/17

 

‘Origine’ Spelt

52

1459

890

Irrigated

76N-50P-20S-8.1SO4--1.2Zn

 

2020

 

 

‘Stone Age’ Einkorn

52

1520

927

Irrigated

65N-20P-10S-2Zn

 

2020

 

1Based on average test weights and kernel loss values reported in Table 2.

Participation Summary
6 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
5 Online trainings
1 Published press articles, newsletters
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
13 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

275 Farmers
100 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

In 2019 we hosted 2 lectures, 2 baking workshops, and 3 UW research station field days.

In 2020 we hosted 2 baking workshops, 5 Facebook Live events, and 3 UW research station field days.

In 2021 we hosted 3 UW research station field days.

 

Learning Outcomes

8 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • All five of the farmers we are working with as well as the research station staff continue to learn about growing einkorn, emmer, and spelt. They have been very willing to share their experiences with the research team and with other farmers.

    Our biggest challenges have been with weed control and harvest. As the farmers and research station staff learn about these grains, we compile this information. It will be used in future extension bulletins on the topic

Project Outcomes

6 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)
1 Grant received that built upon this project
16 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

This project has generated strong consumer interest across Wyoming. There have been many popular press articles, classes, and presentations. We have been giving away small amounts of flour as we can, and there is strong demand from home and small scale commercial bakers. Many of these home bakers have never tried "alternative" products before. We not have a retail partner to mill and package Wyoming grown First Grains.

The farmers we are working with have various levels of excitement. Three of them will likely continue growing some of these products after the project is over. We have had several inquiries about growing grains for this project in the future. As we get a stronger market and more proficient with the de-hulling equipment we will be able to contract with additional growers.

 

 

Information Products

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.