Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring durum wheat

So a quick followup post to my last post: on March 27th, I planted the spring durum wheat varieties I'd ordered from GRIN. Here they are, photos of each of them taken on April 22nd. They're pretty small still and not much data to take at this stage, but they're pretty to look at. Names and locations are listed on the stakes visible in the pictures.

from Los Lagos, Chile

from Herault, France

From Switzerland

French variety

Australian variety, from Victoria

North African landrace

Gotland, Sweden

French variety - had little seed, so that's why there's fewer plants

French variety

Winter Durum Wheat (Pasta wheat!) and Perennial Wheat

Durum wheat is a species not commonly grown in Washington, let alone Western Washington. In fact, the species is grown primarily in hot, dry climates, and in the United States is grown primarily in North Dakota and in Southwestern states. Traditionally, in the Old World, durum wheat is grown in areas with a hot, dry Mediterranean climate, such as Italy (durum wheat is used to make pasta), Spain, Southern France, Greece, Northern Africa, and the Levant.

For those who aren't familiar with it, durum wheat is used to make pasta and is ground up to make semolina flour, which you can often find for sale in the bulk section of health food stores and food co-ops. Durum wheat is also used a lot in making traditional flatbreads, as well as in making couscous. It has a high protein content, though it lacks the right gluten proteins to make bread that will rise well.

I wasn't sure if it could be grown well here, but one day as I was browsing through GRIN (the US germplasm repository, from which you can order seeds for research purposes), I noticed there were some durum wheat varieties originating from areas not particularly associated with hot, dry climates - areas such as Sweden, the UK,  Germany, and Southern Chile. So, along with some hulless barley and hulless oat varieties (and seeds of a Danish soybean variety), I put in an order for some winter and spring durum varieties last fall.

I planted the following six winter durum wheat varieties on September 13th:
Aubaine Rouge (PI 352411) - from France
Hard Hvede (PI 361743) - from Denmark
T-356 (PI 352376) - from Switzerland
Mettes Rauhwizen (PI 190156) - from Lower Saxony, Germany
Gartons Early Cone (PI 278223) - from UK
CAR 1938 (PI 519176) - from Southern Chile (La Araucania)

They came up about five days later, and looked quite well. Then our first cold snap hit, with temperatures plunging down to 6ºF (-14ºC). Winter hardiness varied between varieties (ratings are given combining overall vigor and lack of winter dieback). Aubaine Rouge (7/10), Hard Hvede (8/10), T-356 (8/10) did well, though Mettes Rauwizen (6/10) and Gartons Early Clone (6/10) both fared moderately. Car 1938 (3/10) fared pretty badly, though had bad germination to begin with. Several more cold snaps hit, but they plowed through much the same.

Here's a picture of the plots in early December, soon after our initial hard frost. The plots in the left row are, going front to back: Aubaine Rouge, Hard Hvede, T-356, and Mettes Rauhwizen. In the right row, front to back, they are: Gartons Early Clone, CAR 1938, MT-2 (perennial wheat), and Tsistin (perennial wheat).

And thanks to my sister, here's more photo of the plots on April 22nd:
From bottom to top: Tsitsin (Per. Wheat), MT-2 (Per. Wheat), CAR 1938, and Gartons Early Clone

Bottom to top: Mettes Rauhwizen, T-356, Hard Hvede, and Aubaine Rouge

 I'm excited to see how they do this summer when they're producing grain! I'll post any pictures my sister sends my way.

Also of note, are the two perennial wheat varieties I'm growing. Well, really it's just one, since "MT-2" was decimated by our quite brutal cold snap, but Tsitsin is going strong! Very excited as well to see it as it matures.