Growing Demonstrations of UK Cereal landraces, landrace selections and early cultivars from the BBSRC Small Grain Cereal Collections

Background

There has been increasing interest over recent years in the status and use of old varieties and landraces of cereals grown in the UK. Whether as part of studies aimed at comparing the genetic diversity of the current genepool to that prior to modern plant breeding, or the dissecting of lineages of specific allelic variation through to interests from thatching and millers interested in authenticated UK material. The increased emphasis on sustainable agriculture has also resulted in renewed interest in older forms of the crop, which were typically cultivated under the lower input farming systems of former decades. Concerns have also been expressed over the lack of available UK material for traditional practices such as long wheat straw for thatching raises the question as to what material is actually available.

A study conducted in 2004 as part of a UK National Inventory of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture commissioned by the DEFRA, involved the estimation of the in situ occurrence of cereal landraces in the UK, the extent of their current cultivation, uses and geographic location. Of the wheat landraces described by Percival (1934) very few were found to be still in cultivation and those that remain are grown primarily for their straw.

From discussions within the project it became clear that the material currently grown around the UK represents a very limited proportion of the material that is available from earlier decades. Material registered within ex-situ collections frequently remains overlooked or unrecognised and is not widely known to groups who may be interested in exploring variation within older wheat and barley material from the UK that has fallen out of public knowledge. The BBSRC Small Grain Cereal collections have reviewed the available holdings that relate to UK landraces, selections from landraces and early cultivars (pre-1940s), collated with a view to growing them all out in 2004 and thereafter a selection them that in part would be directed by interest from outside groups for further characterisation and evaluation by ourselves and others.

In recent years the focus of the growing demonstration has been on UK heritage long strawed wheats. Each August close to the time at which the material is ripe for cutting, the plots are visited by growers, thatchers, millers and individuals who have an interest in such material who come to look over the material and discuss it with a view to its suitability for their own needs. Over the 9 years this demonstration has been running it has turned into a good example of public engagement in that the growers feed comments and suggestions into what might be sown and which traits recorded for the subsequent season with information returning to the collection on traits and attributes learnt from people who actually farmed it in the past. They are also able to request seed of these lines to explore and evaluate for their own purposes.

Plans for autumn 2015 sowing

The number of Demonstration plots sown in mid-November 2012 has been maintained at 60 accessions (Table 1). This includes a number of ‘Heritage’ lines that have been requested by growers that they would like to see and which can be compared against the overall range. Others have been added on the basis that they have not been grown out in this set and might reveal useful traits. Spaces have been made for these lines by refreshing off the list some lines that have perfromed poorly over a number of years. Each 1m2 plot was sown at low density and the plots will be grown free of growth regulators and with minimal fungicides and reduced nitrogen. Characterisation of the material will be undertaken throughout the growing season along with an assessment of lodging.

Table 1. Growing Demonstration of Heritage wheats 2014/2015

Field order 14/15
ACC.
CULTIVAR
Species
1
1022
Percival's Blue Cone
T. turgidum
2
508
Rampton Rivet
T. turgidum
3
1080063
Miracle
T. turgidum
4
987
Red Lammas
T. aestivum
5
997
Teverson
T. aestivum
6
10034
Kentish Red Straw
T. aestivum
7
10033
Old Kent Red
T. aestivum
8
10032
Kentish Red Straw
T. aestivum
9
10031
Orange Devon Blue Rough Chaff
T. aestivum
10
1130
Brooker's Double Standup
T. aestivum
11
1135
Q3
T. aestivum
12
1122
Solid Straw Velvet
T. aestivum
13
498
Hen Gymro
T. aestivum
14
10030
Thunstall
T. aestivum
15
1168
Old Burrel
T. aestivum
16
1003
Old Welsh April Bearded
T. aestivum
17
1012
Bearded Red
T. aestivum
18
5623
Red Standard
T. aestivum
19
511
Squareheads Master 13/4
T. aestivum
20
1157
Square Heads
T. aestivum
21
1091
Red Stettin 13
T. aestivum
22
260
White Fife
T. aestivum
23
253
Red Fife
T. aestivum
24
976
Benefactor
T. aestivum
25
1002
Chidham 1
T. aestivum
26
1001
Browick Old True
T. aestivum
27
492
Browick
T. aestivum
28
501
Little Joss
T. aestivum
29
517
Yeoman
T. aestivum
30
1126
Yeoman B 9425
T. aestivum
31
1123
Hunter's 2
T. aestivum
32
1128
Steadfast Yielder
T. aestivum
33
1151
Balwin Early Red
T. aestivum
34
1200
Brown's Winter Wheat
T. aestivum
35
431
Red Marvel
T. aestivum
36
1079
Webb's Universal
T. aestivum
37
1132
Frohae's 17
T. aestivum
38
1206
Redfast
T. aestivum
39
1060
Sussex Stormproof
T. aestivum
40
1107
Stacey's Red Chaff Red Wheat
T. aestivum
41
1056
Red Chaffed Yeoman
T. aestivum
42
514
Victor
T. aestivum
43
1117
White Standup
T. aestivum
44
1143
Gartons Sixty
T. aestivum
45
502
Marsters 57
T. aestivum
46
1166
Generosity
T. aestivum
47
448
Ideal
T. aestivum
48
989
Sherriffs Epi Carre
T. aestivum
49
1140
Hales
T. aestivum
50
497
Golden Drop
T. aestivum
51
512
Squarehead 2
T. aestivum
52
1036
Swann
T. aestivum
53
1080
New Harvester
T. aestivum
54
505
Milns N 59
T. aestivum
55
419
Marsters A1
T. aestivum
56
385
Cappelle Desprez
T. aestivum
57
2214
Aquila
T. aestivum
58
499
Holdfast
T. aestivum
59
4114
Maris Widgeon
T. aestivum
60
730
Maris Huntsman
T. aestivum

As previously, the plots will be available for viewing by prior appointment either as individual or group visits. In addition, an open day will be organised where interested parties will have the opportunity to view the plots with a view to identifying any material of potential interest that they might care to grow and evaluate for themselves. This initiative will be publicised in the farming and local press. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact us to arrange viewing and inspection of the material with a view to requesting small quantities for their own evaluation following harvesting and processing.

Lodging resistance

Lodging of each line is assessed at the point when the nodes are still green but the stems are turning yellow (nominal harvest time for thatching). While the same lines are not grown each year, there is a sufficient overlap of lines each year to make looking at the scores across years meaningful. The results have highlighted a higher than anticipated level of reproducibility in scores (Table 2). Clearly some years are more discriminating than others. 2009 was particularly good at drawing out the differences in performance whereas 2010 was more benign so no severe lodging was recorded. The lines that demonstrate a resistance to lodging can clearly be seen at the head of the table (acc. W511, W517 and W5623). The poorest performers falling to the bottom of the table include W3, W990 and W994. Care should be exercised when evaluating these results in that some of the lines are more spring types but were sown in the autumn so this might not reflect their performance at different times of year. Secondly, these are small unreplicated plots that were supported on the outside to facilitate viewing and observation. Nevertheless, despite these caveats, there is clear evidence of line variation in lodging scores. This analysis will be updated at the end of the 2011 season to enable judgements to be made as to risks associated with some of the material with respect to lodging.

Table 2. Lodging scores for a range of heritage bread wheats at nominal ‘harvesting time’. Lines ranked in ascending order of scores in 2009, 2010 and 2008. Scores 1 – 9 where 1= upright and 9= severely lodged. Green= 1 - 2, orange=3 - 5, Red=6 - 9. Grey boxes indicate the line was not grown in that year.


ACC

CULT

Ht at maturity

L 06

L 07

L 08

L 09

L 10

5623

Red Standard

120

 

1

1

1

1

511

Squareheads Master 13/4

130

1

1

1

1

1

517

Yeoman

112

 

1

1

1

1

1200

Brown's Winter Wheat

120

 

 

2

1

1

385

Cappelle Desprez

83

 

 

 

1

1

499

Holdfast

104

 

 

 

1

1

4114

Maris Widgeon

94

 

 

 

1

1

419

Marsters A1

110

 

2

1

2

1

505

Milns N 59

118

 

1

1

2

1

1123

Hunter's 2

115

 

 

 

2

1

1151

Balwin Early Red

105

 

 

 

2

1

501

Little Joss

122

 

3

1

3

1

1128

Egyptian Mummy

112

 

 

 

3

1

492

Browick

128

 

 

 

4

1

497

Golden Drop

135

 

 

 

4

1

976

Benefactor

120

 

1

 

4

1

1001

Browick Old True

138

2

1

1

5

1

1080

New Harvester

118

 

1

1

6

1

1012

Bearded Red

130

 

1

1

6

1

498

Hen Gymro

130

 

2

2

6

1

253

Red Fife

120

1

1

3

6

1

1126

Yeoman B 9425

123

 

 

 

6

1

1157

Square Heads

125

1

1

1

7

1

1091

Red Stettin 13

127

 

1

1

7

1

987

Red Lammas

130

 

3

6

7

1

989

Sherriffs Epi Carre

118

 

 

 

7

2

986

Hickling de Mars

137

 

 

 

7

3

997

Teverson

130

 

 

4

8

1

1002

Chidham 1

120

 

3

 

8

2

1003

Old Welsh April Bearded

125

3

 

3

8

3

988

Rouge d'Ecosse

148

 

 

 

9

1

1035

Oxford Prize

128

 

3

 

9

1

999

Prince Albert

134

 

 

 

9

1

260

White Fife

137

 

3

3

9

5

990

Talavera de Belle Vue

123

 

 

6

9

6

994

Burgoygn's Fife

126

 

 

2

9

7

3

Glendowe

148

 

3

 

9

7

Another useful analysis that can be performed is to explore the relationship between canopy height (height to the top the peduncle) at maturity and lodging. A graph of the data for 2009 (Fig 1) which showed a wide range of lodging scores, shows clearly that canopy heights below 120cm were resistant to lodging (scores 1 and 20 whereas heights above this were prone to lodge. Heights of around 130cm had the most variable scores but the data across years presented in table 2 suggests that some lines with canopy heights in this range might exhibit a degree of resistance to lodging. The same health warning on this analysis as applies to the lodging scores.

Figure 1. Lodging scores versus canopy height at maturity for lines grown in 2009. Lodging scores 1 – 9 where 1= upright and 9= severely lodged