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Quality bread for everyone

Einkorn, spelt and emmer: the unexploited potential of ancient landrace cereals

19th of June the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) held the second meeting of researchers, farmers, millers and bakers on the cultivation of forgotten ancient landrace cereals. After the first sectoral meeting in February, ÖMKi invited the stakeholders of ancient wheat production and processing to the Biocentrum Organic Farm, located close to the Hungarian border in Slovakia, where participants discussed value chain building opportunities coupled with bread tasting and field demonstration. Those participating at the event emphasized the importance of the rediscovery of ancient landrace cereals, which were the first cereal species produced by humankind. Besides their good nutritional values, these populations can also adapt to the extreme impacts of climate change.

More than 70 Hungarian actors from the sector took part in the professional day held on the Biocentrum Organic Farm in Peszektergenye. This farm has been growing the ancient landrace cereals native to the Carpathian Basin, einkorn, emmer and spelt, since 2015 within the ongoing research of the organizer Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi).

In his presentation József Vajda, who is a baker, the initiator of the sourdough bread sector in Hungary, and the leader of Pékműhely, emphasized the importance of quality, which can only be achieved through natural processes. This is in contrast to the more prevalent quantity-based approach. “Based on our current knowledge, cereals originate from Central Asia, but they have also been produced in the Carpathian Basin for a long time. Since 1946 ancient cereals have been totally replaced by industrialized production. I believe that quality bread is the fundamental right of everyone. For years I searched for varieties we can use to make tastier and more nutritional bread compared to breads made from industrially produced wheat. Ancient cereals provide an exciting and increasingly popular alternative.” – said the founder of the “Kenyérlelke” (Soul of the bread) festival, whose aim is to restore the concept of real bread.

“Cultivated plants produced in the largest quantities – such as wheat – are becoming more and more vulnerable to the extreme impacts of climate change. According to the latest forecast of the Research Institute of Agricultural Economics, wheat yields in Hungary may decrease by 8% by 2050 and by 21% by 2100 due to future extreme weather conditions. One of the current challenges of agriculture is to prepare for this situation by taking preventive steps. Forgotten landraces and participatory plant breeding, launched in cooperation with farmers, are still unexploited resources in Hungary. They may be an alternative for those farming under unfavourable conditions, while providing healthy ingredients for the bakers at the same time.” – emphasized Dr. Dóra Drexler, researcher and manager of ÖMKi. 

The Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture investigates possibilities for spreading ancient landrace cereals, or in other words glumaceous cereal species. It also aims to share the experience it has gained in the production and use of these cereals as well as the potential for breeding them organically within more international research projects (such as Healthy Minor Cereals, Diversifood or Liveseed). Ancient glumaceous cereal species have been tested in small plot experiments and also under farm conditions with the help of an on-farm network since 2015. Based on our findings, ancient landrace cereals can be successfully produced even on less favourable land where modern bread wheat could not be grown. Although the yields are lower compared to bread wheat, the ratio of microelements and dietary fibres are higher in these ancient grains, and their protein structure is also different. Consequently, not every ancient cereal variety can be used for making bread, but some of them are excellent raw materials for making pasta (emmer) or biscuits (einkorn). The testing of products made of glumaceous ancient cereals (breads and biscuits) led to positive results both with bakers and the consumers during tastings organized by ÖMKi. “Ancient cereals are an important market opportunity for organic farmers and a valuable alternative in food consumption for environmentally and health-conscious consumers and those interested in gastronomic specialities.”said Dr. Dóra Drexler, organizer of the field day held in the former Upper Hungary when summarizing the practical importance of the research. 

Research Institute of Organic Agriculture: The Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) works on research-innovation tasks leading to practically implementable results, thus guaranteeing the sustainable development of agriculture and food production in Hungary. To this end the organization develops professional networks in cooperation with Hungarian and foreign research institutes and farmers, carries out research and information activities, and provides technical advice. Its oldest project called “On-farm research network” won the Agricultural Development Prize at the 78th National Agriculture and Food Exhibition and Fair (OMÉK) and also the E.on Energy Globe Award in 2018, and it is the only Hungarian project carrying out research in close cooperation with farmers by applying a practical approach to sustainable agriculture. The on-farm research method covers simple experiments conducted in real life situations on operating farms adapted to the production objectives defined by the farmers. The subjects of the experiments have been elaborated together by ÖMKi and the participating farms since 2012. The organization’s work has also been acknowledged by the Association of Environmental Enterprises through the charter called “For the protection of the environment” in 2019.


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