In comparison to common wheat, minor cereals as spelt, rye, oat, emmer and einkorn grow well in poor soils or and have retained far greater concentration of micronutrients.
Consumers have increasing demands for healthy, nutritious food produced sustainably. Minor cereals can address these points. In some regions in Europe, products of minor cereals are already valued as healthy, ecologically and regional food.
Up to now, there has been little research to optimise agronomy, food processing and marketing of minor cereals.
HEALTHYMINORCEREALS will apply state of the art methods for genetic characterisation and phenotyping of >800 genotypes of 5 minor cereal species (spelt, rye, oat, einkorn and emmer). The project will select traits related to yield, nutritional quality and disease resistance. In field experiments and on-farm trials the new breeds will be tested.
In cooperation with SME, the project will investigate parameters of grain important for food manufacture in order to optimise milling and other processes to maximise nutritional quality.
A study on market potential for new breeds in various European markets will be conducted.
The productivity of European and global agriculture has been vastly improved through focussing on a relatively small number of crop species (for cereals grown in Europe mainly on common wheat and barley) bred for high yields, and dependent on large inputs of mineral fertilizers. However, this strategy has left agriculture with a reduced genetic variation and diversity which makes crops more vulnerable to biotic and abiotic stresses, and high inputs of fertilizers and energy lead to environmental damage.
In comparison to conventional common wheat, minor cereals typically grow well in poor soils or under low input conditions, and have retained far greater concentration of micronutrients that have been bred out of common wheat. They are hence valued highly by both producers and consumers of organic foods, and increasingly also by conventional farmers.
Consumers have increasing demands for healthy, nutritious, and innovative food produced sustainably. Minor cereals can address these points, as well as contributing to feed and non-food markets. However, they have been hardly developed as commercial varieties, with no major investment to exploit genetic diversity in breeding programmes, and have low yields. There has been little research to optimise agronomy, food processing and marketing.
HEALTHYMINORCEREALS will apply state of the art methods for genetic characterisation and phenotyping of >800 genotypes of 5 minor cereal species (spelt, rye, oat, einkorn and emmer). The project will select traits related to yield, nutritional quality and disease resistance, especially targeting important and emerging crop diseases, to identify well characterised genotypes for development of minor cereal varieties and cross breeding. Field experiments in 4 contrasting climatic zones in Europe will optimise agronomy within the organic and low-input sector, addressing gene x environment interactions, fertilization and potential benefits of agronomic management suited to improve yields in each country, and culminating with innovative on-farm trials.
The project will investigate variation in nutritional quality of selected genotypes and analyse biological effects of seed extracts in human cell lines. Parameters of grain important for food manufacture will be investigated with optimisation of milling and other processes to maximise nutritional quality. Food industry partners will use selected minor cereal grains to develop new food products that will be demonstrated with production trials, standardisation and sensory analysis. A study on market potential will investigate factors involved in the development of minor cereals in various European markets and develop a framework for enhancing this potential. The project consortium has a major involvement of SME partners involved in breeding, farming, and food production with minor cereals.