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Old Varieties of Cereal

Ecological and genetic diversity ​

The Biosphere Administration Office promotes the cultivation of old, alpine land varieties with the help of the Biosphere Grain Garden. Laufener Landweizen, Binkel and Berchtesgadener Vogel, for example, are once again cultivated on agricultural land and are processed in the region. Old cereal varieties have a high ecological and genetic value. Due to their tall and sparse growth, they also provide excellent living conditions for wild herbs in the fields.

On the disappearance and appreciation of old cereal varieties

With the increasing industrialization of agriculture and also the processing of agricultural products, the diversity of edible plants for human consumption has declined sharply over the last 100 years: Since the beginning of agriculture about 11,000 years ago from about 7,000 species to only about 150 species that are still consumed today. About 75% of the arable land in Germany are dominated by only 5 crops – wheat, barley, corn, rapeseed and rye. Due to German seed laws, only a limited number of varieties are in cultivation. In addition to the ancient cereals (einkorn, emmer and spelt) the old cereal varieties also include individual varieties, e.g. of wheat. These are referred to as landraces – genetically non-uniform varieties that have evolved through long-term natural selection in a narrowly defined area. Preserving the old gene pool offers a great opportunity: undiscovered resistance to diseases or good adaptations to climate change could be hidden in the old cereal varieties and contribute to the development of new varieties. Old varieties increase biodiversity in the field and are also of value to the local culture as the basis for many typical regional products. Their preservation works when they are appreciated in agriculture, processing, retail and by consumers. This is where the Biosphere Administration Office provides important impulses.

Biosphere Grain Garden

Preserving, Propagating, Developing Seed Diversity

Under the motto ‘We are keepers of treasures’, the Biosphere Administration Office, together with farmers, has taken on the task of preserving old cultivated and cereal varieties in the Biosphere Grain Garden in the community of Saaldorf-Surheim. In cooperation with the Bavarian State Institute for Agriculture, old, alpine grain varieties were brought back to the region and propagated.

Reife Ähren des Laufener Landweizen

Laufener Landweizen (Laufen wheat)

Laufener Landweizen is an old variety of winter wheat from the border region of Rupertiwinkel and the foothills of the Salzburg Alps, named after the town of Laufen an der Salzach. It was the first landrace in Berchtesgadener Land, which was rediscovered a good 20 years ago and brought back to cultivation, processing and marketing through cross-border projects. Today, there is a network of organic farms and processing companies working to preserve this variety. With the purchase of products made from Laufener Landweizen, it is possible to preserve an ecological, genetic and cultural value.

Berchtesgadener Vogel wheat

In 2018, the Berchtesgadener Vogel, an old variety of winter wheat, was brought back to its namesake Berchtesgadener Land. Strting with only three kilograms of seeds, it was cultivated in the Biosphere Grain Garden . After two years of re-propagation, it was sown on two organic farms and has been used in the biosphere product “Bio Alpen Korn” (schnapps) since 2022. Berchtesgadener Vogel is a landrace that grows about 1.50 meters high and provides excellent living conditions for wild herbs. In 2022, Berchtesgadener Vogel was approved as a conservation variety by the Biosphere Administration Office.
Feld mit Berchtesgadener Vogel Getreide
Nahaufnahme einer Ähre des Binkel


As part of the small-scale project “Urgetreide Binkel – Chancen für die Rekultivierung einer historischen Getreideart des Voralpen- und Alpenraum” (Ancestral Grain Binkel – Opportunities for the Reclamation of a Historic Cereal Species of the Pre-Alpine and Alpine Regions), which started in January 2021, the Biosphere Administration Office dealt with the “revival” of the Binkel. This was done in cooperation with the Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture, the Genbank Tirol and the UNESCO Biosphere Park Salzburger Lungau. Considered a very special rarity today, the Binkel, also called dwarf wheat or pile wheat, was once widespread in the region.

Steiners Roter Tiroler Dinkel (Steiner's Red Tyrolean Spelt)

Steiner’s Red Tyrolean Spelt was grown in the Biosphere Grain Garden in 2018, interbred there and grown on organic farms on a small scale since 2020. It is a variety of red spelt that used to be commonly grown in alpine areas. In the future, it will be processed by local bakeries in “Berchtesgadener Land Bread,” a certified biosphere product.
Getreidekörner in der Hand

Field wild herbs

Colored companions of great value

In the biosphere region, native wild herbs are propagated and replanted in grain fields on organic farms. Arable wild herbs have a high aesthetic and ecological value: they provide food and habitat for many insects, are an important part of the biotope network and contribute to improving the soil structure. Due to their light growth, old grain varieties offer excellent conditions for the re-colonization of wild herbs.

Portrait Karin Heinrich

Your contact person

Karin Heinrich

Sustainable regional development, agriculture and public relations

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