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Page history last edited by Ruth 1 year, 4 months ago


Wheat        Einkorn         Rye         Spelt          Emmer          Barley          Oats          Rice 


       Sorghum     Corn     


Link to Heritage and Landrace Grain Network     




Project Overview


Initial Goal: Identify landraces and heritage grain varieties from North America and other regions of the world that have similar climate or latitude to us and which might be adaptable to small-scale cultivation in our regions.


Eventual Goal: Provide home gardeners, homesteaders, and small farmers with starter quantities of seed from promising varieties.


Grain Candidates: wheat, rye, spelt, barley, oats, rice, sorghum, einkorn, and emmer.

We are also interested in finding pseudograin varieties such as buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth. This list is not definitive, and if there is another grain that you are especially interested in, it could join the others in the project. We want to grow what we want to eat!


Criteria for initial selection:

          1. Planting time - spring / fall / facultative (either S or F)

          2. Known or reputed disease resistance

          3. Place of origin - Is it likely to do well here?

          4. Do you love to eat it?

Characteristics we will evaluate during our trials:

          1. Growth habits – tillering, susceptibility to lodging, height, yield

          2. Disease resistance / susceptibility

          3. Ease of processing on a small scale

          4. Baking qualities

          5. Digestibility (for people with wheat or gluten sensitivities)



Rocky Mountain Heritage Grain Trials Project




Growing Guidelines for Trial Plots

When to Plant:  Spring grains (spring wheat, spring einkorn, kamut, barley, oats) should be planted by mid-April at the latest. Winter grains (winter wheat, rye, spelt) should be planted in early September.
Soil Preparation: Choose an area that is well-drained. Prepare as for any garden crop with a moderate application of compost and organic mineral amendments. Do not over-fertilize as this can lead to the plants lodging, or falling over, when ripening. Weed thoroughly before planting.
Spacing and Planting Depth: For trial plots, spacing is usually farther apart than in a field grown for production. This wider spacing allows each plant to grow into its full form with many tillers. Plant seeds 1-2 inches deep on a 6" to12" grid. You can also plant in rows 1 foot apart, 3"-8" between plants within the row. There is some discussion about optimum spacing for trials, but 8” x 8” for wheat seems to be a good spacing.  You can try different spacing or just choose one.
Weed Control: You can sow a low-growing clover once the grains are established. For winter grains, sow the clover in early spring. For spring grains, sow about three weeks after planting the grains. This keeps the weeds down and becomes a cover crop when the grain is harvested. Unfortunately, it also serves as a nice hideaway for mice and voles who might want to harvest your grains before they are ready. If your rows are far enough apart, you could hoe in between or mulch instead. Three rows at 12” then a wider path for walking can work well.

Pest Control:  Watch out for chipmunks, red squirrels, and birds. Scare tape works pretty well for birds, but chipmunks and squirrels are hard to beat if it’s a big year for them.

Diseases:  Fusarium head blight is a common disease of grains, especially during wet seasons. Watch for bleaching of the heads and/or bright orange spores on the developing grains. The grains will shrivel instead of ripening. Remove any fusarium and destroy it. It is not good to eat it. Fusarium winters over in stubble left from harvest, especially corn stubble and residues.

Harvesting:  Grains have four stages of ripeness: the milk stage, when kernels are soft and milky; the soft dough stage, when the kernels are soft but chewy; the hard dough stage, when the kernels are beginning to harden but are still soft enough to chew; and the flint stage, when the kernels are hard. The best time to harvest is at the hard dough stage and then allow the heads to dry further by bunching and hanging in a dry, airy place. You can bundle the grain into sheaves and build shocks or stooks in the field if you have good weather and the right know-how.
Record Keeping: Keep notes about soil prep, spacing, planting time, lodging, harvest, winter hardiness, etc. Share your experiences and results with others. Soon you’ll have enough grain to share as well!












What is a Landrace?
A landrace is a population of domesticated plants (or animals) that has developed through natural processes in a particular region. These natural processes include adaptation to a variety of environmental situations, crossings, and the introduction of seed through farmers trading and sharing seed. Rather than being selectively bred to conform to certain standards, landraces evolve by adapting to their natural environment and to the cultural practices used by the people growing them. Some modification happens as a result of agricultural practices but without the focused intent of variety breeding. Landraces are genetically and physically more diverse than more formal varieties or breeds. This allows them to respond to and take advantage of a variety of growing situations, and it allows growers to select for traits that are best suited to their growing conditions. Basically, a landrace is a variety that has grown up and adapted naturally to a particular region and to the cultivation methods used by the farmers.

Why grow landrace grains?
What landrace grains may lack in yield and uniformity compared with modern varieties, they make up for with their adaptability, genetic diversity, and nutritional value. Landraces tend to be tougher and more resilient than modern varieties. They are opportunistic in their ability to adapt to varied conditions. Landrace grains do not rely on the intense irrigation, fertilization and pesticide application that most modern grains do in order to survive and produce. They will grow without large amounts of added fertilizer, in situations where modern varieties might fail. They have deep root systems that can extract moisture and nutrients from deeper in the soil. Landraces tend to mature early, avoiding late season weather, be it drought or flood. Some landraces have a facultative growth habit. This means they can be grown either as winter or spring grains. If fall planting fails, you can try again in the spring, at least in some climates. Landraces tend to have a high mineral content and many have higher protein than modern hybrids. Einkorn, the most ancient of cultivated wheats has been found to have a type of gluten that many people with gluten sensitivities can digest. As our trials progress, we are hoping to find that there are other landraces with this quality as well.


To be continued...

- increased root partitioning – deep, well-developed roots – extract moisture from deeper in the soi

- higher transpiration efficiency

- early maturity (avoid late season weather – drought or flood)

- facultative growth habit – spring or winter – some landraces can be planted in the spring if fall planting fails

- good for low nitrogen situations –  low input management systems

- higher mineral content



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