Anybody working on winter cereals?

Edit 16th february:

I change the title from “anybody in the EU working on winter cereals” to “anybody working on winter cereals?”. When I first created it, a quite frightening thread emerged about the risk of importing seeds illegally, so I decided to make this one an EU-thing only, as one of the intents is to share seeds, eventually, which would not be possible accross the Atlantic, or with our Australian friends… but I realise this choice is rather unbalanced as the other intent is to simply talk about breeding winter cereals! It is just an adaptation project. So everybody should feel legitimate to get on board discussing, sharing… Sorry about that

Is anyone working on winter cereals? (By winter I mean sown in autumn)

I would love to concentrate on dual use populations: I want them to be early flowering (as cover crops) and to harvest grains on specific plots.
I already made progresses with rye.

I will add a few pictures of my experimental plots soon, but to summarise:

  • october 2022: I planted a 50 varieties (or landraces) plot, with the 4 main families represented: rye, barley, oat, and wheat (winter wheat, emmer, poulard, einkorn, etc.). Each individual plot was sown in a standardized manner in order to imitate the usual density of a broadcast seeding (from 250 to 450 seeds / square meter, so to say about 25 to 45 per square foot, depending on varieties and time of the year)

  • end of october 2023: I have kept about one third of those of last year showing the best potential + added about 30 varieties, mostly rye.

  • Sown a few big plots: 150m2 (a little more than 1500 square feet) of the FURAT wheat evolutionary population (EP), 150m2 of the MÈTIS wheat mix, 30m2 (300 square feet) of a Spelt giant mix (Graines de liberté, from “d’une Graines aux autres” breeders), 30m2 of a Poulard grex (same) + a few others, including a 10m2 (100square feet) plot to cross my 2022-2023 3 best ryes (rye is an outcrosser).

As I intend to create dual use populations, I will focus on “biomass” and flowering earliness (it is the stage when I can crush the cover crop), meaning ideally at the end of april (otherwise cereals litteraly take all the water from the ground I need to start my summer plantations).

  • globally wheats are the latest (flowering from the 15th of mai to the 15th of june), so apart from the FURAT EP -which I am sure will be very heterogenous- I have no hope for any wheat.
  • barleys are the earliest (from the 15th of april to the 7th of may, depending on varieties), but with a small root system and very short plants: not that much straw.
    -oats are big plants, with a huge root system, well covering the ground if sown early, but quite late-flowering: 1st of june to the 15th, apart from one spanish strain which was very early, for oats: 10th of may! (“De 6 carretes de Antequerra”)
  • then rye are the most promising in my acidic, draining soil: huge plants (some higher than 2m), huge root system AND early flowering: around the 1st of May. The only weakness of rye is its vegetation at the beginning of the season: kind of slow starter.

Anyway it is best sowing them early (mid september-1st October). Can be even better before (August) if you can irrigate: you’ll have massive massive plants before winter… Can be a good way to start a land by the way.

Personnally I am interested by all very diversified mixes and contacts with people working on that kind of projects. Until that day I have been working with seeds from Seedbanks (french INRAE), collectives, conservatories, and different sellers.

Do you know about Salvatore Ceccareli? He has been creating diverse grain grexes and distributing them to farmers all over Europe and the Middle East to create new local landraces.

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Yes I have been in contact with him. Great man. He gave me a contact in Toscany for bringing in his wheat. I have redistributed it to ten different people in France, each receiving a 5kilo share of seeds.
I have made the first post of a series about him here: Same mindset, different approaches


I vaguely recall you were the one who suggested Salvatore as a guest. Sorry if I forgot before replying- I lose track of who said what to me in the past. I messaged him but no reply yet.

Nono Shane That was me saying you should interview Thomas. Hehe.

Thomas, working on is a big word. I grow some, because i love to see what it does.
I’m one of the people you’ve sens five kilo to. I went with what you and my farmer friend said. A month after you i’ve seeded those, in the first rains that didn’t stop until it got cold. A big flock of migratry birds have gotten most of that i’m afraid. And the weather killed quite a lot.

I’m having trouble distinguising between grasses and wheats or rye. Last year i’ve let a small rye patch go to seed. I’ve harvested with a big garden scissors. Kept it in a sand bag hung up in the barn and cried when i wanted to separate them from the stalk, month mater. Finally i tried in desparation to put them through a small electrical woodchipper. Which they came out great, oddly enough.
I must have a video somewhere because i knew people would not believe.
The standing stalks i’ve cut down, to use as a mulch, to keep the weed down.
It came back up. Reye grains have fallen.
Here’s a picture of that small bed of 3 feet by 20 or something.

I sure hope you were more in luck with Salvatore’s wheat and other growers.
PS i would not have put Salvatore’s wheat through the chopper…

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Yes of that Shane knows, and asked me, but I refused, my oral english is too bad for now. :slight_smile: maybe using what Shane usef in his Gts podcast with the Ukrainian guy. Why not.

I am just coming back from my fields actually: I am very very happy to see that Salvatore’s wheat is the highest of all!!! Higher than Mètis and all the other wheats. Here is a picture

Visually… On a picture, we don’t see anything, right?!? :wink:

Here is my small plots patch

My list of individual patches, with “control patches” (in red)

And the plank I used for each individual plot.

Seems abig work but actually it took me one day to sow the 44 plots with a friend.


Hello all,
I consider myself “working” on winter cereals. I consider anything that can grow with winter rains a good potential crop for the future, when summer water will not be as regular as it used to be in our parts.
Note that I am also “working” on summer cereals, with crops that can produce something, even with little water.

I have this dual use target in mind , too. I have practiced dual use with oats, I grow oats in a plot where I intend to grow winter vegetables ( leeks, cabbages , etc…) right after the grain harvest. I wait until the oats is mature, then I harvest it manually by pulling seeds with one hand and dropping them in a bag. Then I am left with the straw ready to be lain and covered with a sheet (to prevent grass coming back) until cabbages grown in the nursery are ready for planting. With leeks, you can often plant them just after laying the straw. The straw and roots will slowly decompose and protect the soil from the sun. The soil remains pratically untouched.

I am reflecting on other sequences of this sort to be tested.

What you are doing, Thomas, seems a bit different, tell me if I misunderstand : you want to be able to sow 2 plots of the same crop, one will be laid just after flowering, for weggies plantation and the other one will continue, until grain is mature and can be harvested. Correct ? So you are working on the traits of the species while I am working on the cultural cycles of different crops. Interesting.

This winter I have nothing in the field because I had to change place , so I am planning for next automn’s sowing.

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Looking very promising Thomas! I downloaded and zoomed in on your photo. Yeah it’s great. I think your board works very nicely too. Even spacing. I do a lot by hand and it’s defo not so nicely spread. Big blobs with many and then empty space.
How does that work? You shake it? or you have to bend and push them through one by one? Haha.

with our association we work the cereals for some years with the operation of the “grain to bread”

there are multiplication plots where we multiply and test new recovered varieties, then production plots in population variety but as we are aiming to make bread some varieties are dominant in the mix

this year we have treasures in multiplication:

  • Painted Mountain corn
  • Sepp Holzer’s Siberian Rye
  • Tim Peters Perennial Wheat Grex
  • ‘Salish Blue’ Perennial Wheat

I am very new to this types of grains but I got two small patches going on. I grew this one, and another local ecological variety.

Maybe I will get some seeds from this patch.

This is the other patch that I done. Hand planting and hoeing in a very hard surface. Not much seeds to begin with.

Now I got a manual seeder and my approach is to plant them in trenches.

Yes it did not look great for me just a few weeks ago, due to this crazy rains we have had for 4 months. So you may have hope. Wait and see for what comes up in the next week or so. It is a light green, I have seen leaves dancing in the wind yesterday. That is how I knew it was on a “good” track. Anyway… it has selected for humidity tolerance… Last year it was frost tolerance… I have kept 3 kilos of the original population to be able to sow them side by side in a few years from now, to see how the different populations evolved over time and different environmental pressures. That is what Salvatore suggested me.

What I mean is I want control over my cover crops seeds which I would like to produce myself and which could be also eaten, so I don’t know yet how it is gonna be, but first I select landraces or varieties which are also edible (human use) and apply to them my earliness + biomass criteria. Then we’ll see!

Broadcasting seeds is not easy. I have had a teacher, or a mentor - the same as Isabelle by the way :slight_smile: -, so we learned side by side, or one after the other, correcting our postures, movements, etc. It is not that hard but better taught I would say, even if some will get it without any tutorial or mentor thing - as with music for example!

These are really treasures! for sure. I have looked at them yesterday andit sounds very very promising. I will let you know if I find something of interest I could take from Genesys or Eurisco or Florilège databases similar. I was not intending to do such a thing but what I red sounds good. Actually I have a friend who has perennial lupine seeds which are like bushes, 2m high. So leguminous. Still don’t know if they are edible, but will let you know. I love the idea of having something perennial in the garden, between rows, etc.

Of the two products I have had too, triticum spelta (Spelt) is doing much better than triticum turgidum (Poulard) in here. It is kind of usual one the breeders told me: all farmers are afraid of their Poulard fields before springtime she said, and after it grows like crazy, with strong, thick straw.

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Picture of my greenhouse where I broadcated different ryes (for their earliness) and different leguminous: faba beans, lupine,vetsch, peas + some crucifers: mustard, daikon radishes, and also phacelia.
Looking great so far. Choosing rye only (in the cereal family, which accounts for 40-50% of the mix) is the result of last year’s investigations of earliness and different things related. Also the sowing density has changed dramatically (multiplied by 4) as I understood that the main thing was to start photosynthesis the sooner possible, so to fix more carbon and nitrogen, get a better structuration of the soil profile, and also, even if it is not the main purpose, to not be invaded by unwanted plants.

In later years I would love rye to be selected for this dual use. Now it is only an earliness choice : I have skiped oats which were flowering too late. So the rye varieties themselves have not been really been specifically chosen for this dual use yet. There is:

  • a modern landrace used by a near farmer-baker
  • one secale montanum strain a farmer gave me (supposed to be "agressive and early flowering)
  • and the usual rye I bought in previous years for doing cover crops.


I’ve checked and more have come!


Great! just going back from my patch

But not that much in the standardised plot, which is very weedy and must have suffered from the very intense rains we have had and are once again having. Still this population went from the Middle East, then Italy, so it is meeting its first wet conditions. Mild winter, but wetter than ever… We have had in 4 months what we have over a year usually (600-800mm). Conditions really similar to the UK: nearly no frosts and lot of rain.

… By the way for those zooming you may recognise the very common here rumex acetosella, which bio-indicates a very acidic soil with hemorrhage of all organic matter. It is what nature gives you to keep what is left, when there is not that much left - for the continental Europe I mean. Realy not a place to do market gardening… But maybe the best to do landrace gardening! Someone even told me last week that the romans were always breeding on the not-so-good soils to bring back seeds to the good soils, where they made harvests. Don’t have the source yet, but will find it.

It is still a light green…

…Looking very tall, dancing with the wind when all the others are shorter, and with some tillering

Where the greenhouse is at:

Fava beans doing great, seems to start heading, then rye under, really dense… So far it is my best cover crop ever. Hope rye will flower around May 1st.


I heard a Russian man had left the Morvan with localized wheat grains for Russia. He came back the year after and bought a trainwagonload which formed the basis of their wheat empire…
I have no idea if that’s based in any reality whats-o-ever, but same kind of idea.

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Your greenhouse cover crop looks nice.

Hi @ThomasPicard .Been to the field to reenforce the fence to keep the cows out. The farmer Jean-Luc said it looks set now so we harvest 10 kilos abouts. He would like to do ‘herser’ , a technique to cut it short and disperse root bits with the tractor. So the ones that grow back will fill it out. I’ve got no clear picture of the tool he wants to hang behind the tractor and weather this works as well with these ancient landraces as it does with the ‘modern’ ones he knows.
He said he’s done it with sheep as well. Let them on the field for a bit and their trampling while eating had the same résultats… I’ve told him i’d ask you for advice on the matter.

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My overall feeling is that : we - as a collective- have about ten similar lots all over France, so why not trying his idea?

Looks like this in my place. One week ago

Strangely enough, as it is supposed to be super aggressive as regards to weeds : no tillers.

On the other side it is by far the highest cereal of my fields. And the most precocious as far as leaves are concerned. About 30cm high.

My friend nearby me has similar results.


You could try barley as a cover crop. Throughout the history of cereals barley, was always grown along side other cereals too: Neolithic was einkorn and barley, bronze age emmer and barley, into the Roman age with spelt and barley, then Saxon period with wheat and barley.

Barley tends to grow shorter than other cereals, leaves appear sooner and are broader. So it seems to be a little more competitive and makes a good weed suppressant.