Whose Bread is This?

Good morning! Are you eating some toast or a sandwich as you read today, or maybe some pasta or a wrap? 

We eat a lot of wheat.

Given how many varieties of wheat exist, the commodity wheat that makes it into (almost all) of our bread accounts for very, very few varieties. They are genetically uniform, and generally reliant on artificial fertiliser and pesticides to grow.

We need diverse seed

Olands wheat, Turners of Bytham, Lincolnshire

Wheat varieties that are less reliant on high energy inputs include:

  • Heritage varieties of wheat
  • Landrace varieties, that have become very well adapted to a particular region
  • Population wheat, that include a high level of genetic diversity within a single crop, and that changes and adapts to its growing environment year on year, for example, the YQ population developed at Waklyn’s.

Why does grain diversity matter?

Breakfast at UK Grain Lab 2022

It matters for our health: it makes little sense to measure the value of food only in terms of yield and calories. Poor nutrition and obesity are two sides of the same coin. We need foods with greater nutrient density – that nourish us instead of providing empty calories!

It matters for the environment: commodity grains developed to maximise yield are also reliant on a chemical toolkit of artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, which have huge costs in biodiversity loss, pollution and the health of our soils, as well as high greenhouse gas emissions.

YQ print design by Rosanna Morris, with thanks to Sarah Ormanroyd

It matters for climate resilience: global warming is bringing with it unpredictable changes to weather patterns and extreme weather events. Whereas disease can easily spread across a monoculture of genetically identical grain, diversity means that there is greater resilience – where one variety suffers, another may survive or thrive in unprecedented conditions.

It matters for democracy: We need farmers to be able to produce, develop and trade heterogeneous seeds instead of being wholly reliant on patented seed from a small number of giant companies that monopolise the market.

Another loaf is possible

  • Ask your baker – they may not currently use diverse grains, but they’ll probably be interested!
  • Do it yourself! Try Hodmedods for diverse flour (and recipes to use it) 
  • Read about the development of YQ population wheat at Waklyns – also some lovely videos and interesting links here:
  • Talk to us

We’d like to learn more too: if you are a baker, miller or farmer using diverse grains or interested in being part of a regional grain network, we’d like to hear from you. Email Laura@lincolnshirefoodpartnership.org

Bake bread as if the world mattered – Primary, Nottingham

Bread Day – 3rd May 2023

This article is published in the Lincoln Independent, where you can read a column from us and other food writers every month.

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