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Stallknecht, G.F., K.M. Gilbertson, and J.E. Ranney. 1996. Alternative wheat cereals as food grains: Einkorn, emmer, spelt, kamut, and triticale. p. 156-170. In: J. Janick (ed.), Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.

Alternative Wheat Cereals as Food Grains: Einkorn, Emmer, Spelt, Kamut, and Triticale

G.F. Stallknecht, K.M. Gilbertson, and J.E. Ranney

    1. Origin and Taxonomy
    2. Agronomy and Production
    3. Marketing and Utilization
  2. EMMER
    1. Origin and Taxonomy
    2. Agronomy and Production
    3. Marketing and Utilization
  3. SPELT
    1. Origin and Taxonomy
    2. Agronomy and Production
    3. Marketing and Utilization
  4. KAMUT®
    1. Origin and Taxonomy
    2. Agronomy and Production
    3. Marketing and Utilization
    1. Origin and Taxonomy
    2. Agronomy and Production
    3. Marketing and Utilization
  8. Table 1
  9. Table 2
  10. Table 3
  11. Table 4
  12. Fig. 1
  13. Fig. 2

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture food guide pyramid recommends 6-11 daily servings of the "grain" group. The growing interest in home bread making along with the development and increased availability of alternative cereal grain flours has encouraged the development of various tasty bread products. Many bread products varying in taste and texture can be developed utilizing alternative grain flour alone or in various proportions with common bread wheat flour. The tremendous potential of grains to produce a variety of bread products has been summarized by Pomeranz (1983).

The objective of this paper is to generate the interest of the home baker in the use of cereal grain flours other than common wheat. Presently Kamut and spelt flours are readily available. Triticale flour availability is limited, and the authors are still pursuing agronomic and quality evaluations of einkorn and emmer PI accessions from the USDA-ARS National Small Grain Germplasm Research Facility (NSGGRF), Aberdeen, Idaho.


Origin and Taxonomy

Einkorn is thought to have originated in the upper area of the fertile crescent of the Near East (Tigris-Euphrates regions). Wild einkorn Triticum boeoticum includes both the single grain T. aegilopoides and the two grain T. thaoudar and T. urartu. Cultivated einkorn is T. monococcum, and like wild einkorn has the genome constitution AA (Table 1). In cereal crops the head (inflorescence) if unbranched is called a spike. The spike consists of flowers (spikelets) arranged on the rachis (which is an extension of the stem). The flowers (spikelets) arise from nodes along the rachis which are called rachilla. The spikelet is enclosed by bracts, the glumes, or chaff. The kernels within the spikelet as enclosed in bracts, the lemma, and palea. As an example, kernels of free threshing wheats thresh free of the bracts; barley threshes free of the glumes, while lemma and palea make up the hull of the kernel; einkorn, emmer, and spelt thresh with the complete spikelet intact. A classification and description of Triticum sp. is outlined by Briggle and Reitz (1963). The wild and cultivated einkorn are differentiated by the brittleness of the rachis. The rachis of wild einkorn is brittle and the spikelets readily disarticulate when mature, whereas the rachis of cultivated einkorn is less fragile and remains intact until thrashed.

Einkorn along with emmer and spelt are often referred to as "the covered wheats," since the kernels do not thresh free of the glumes or the lemma and palea when harvested (Fig. 1). In contrast to the free threshing wheats, the spikes of einkorn disarticulate at threshing (the seed head breaks apart into intact spikelets). The spikes disarticulate with the rachilla apex attached to the base of the spikelet. Einkorn has long narrow glumes which are awned. Cultivated einkorn generally has one kernel per spikelet.

Einkorn became widely distributed throughout the Near East, Transcaucasia, the Mediterranean region, southwestern Europe, and the Balkans, and was one of the first cereals cultivated for food.

Harlan (1981), cites information suggesting that wild einkorn grain was harvested in the late Paleolithic and early Mesolithic Ages, 16,000-15,000 BC. Confirmed finds of wild grain remains have been dated to the early Neolithic (Stone Age) 10,000 BC. (Helmqvist 1955; Zohary and Hopf 1993). Cultivated einkorn continued to be a popular cultivated crop during the Neolithic and early Bronze Age 10,000-4,000 BC giving way to emmer by the mid-Bronze Age. Einkorn cultivation continued to be popular in isolated regions from the Bronze Age into the early 20th century. Today, einkorn production is limited to small isolated regions within France, India, Italy, Turkey, and Yugoslavia (Harlan 1981; Perrino and Hammer 1982).

Agronomy and Production

Historically, einkorn was cultivated in cool environments on marginal agricultural land through the Mid-east and southwestern Europe. Einkorn is still cultivated in harsh environments and poor soil in Italy (Perrino and Hammer 1984). Einkorn selections produced protein and yield equal to or higher than barley and durum wheat when grown under adverse growing conditions (Vallega 1979). Evaluations of 15 einkorn accessions grown in Italy indicate that the yields were significantly lower than that of modern wheats when grown under intensive cropping management (Vallega 1992). However, in this study several progeny of selected einkorn crossings (while lacking in several desirable agronomic traits) produced yields comparable to the modern wheats. Eighty einkorn PI accessions from (NSGGRF) have been evaluated for yield, straw characteristics, and date of heading at the Southern Agricultural Research Center, Huntley, Montana (SARC) from 1992 to the present. The yields of einkorn ranged from 4160 to 120 kg/ha, 1992; 1290 to 130 kg/ha, 1993; 2160 to 220 kg/ha, 1994; and 2400 to 720 kg/ha in 1995. The 1995 yield range represents 25 final PI accession selections (based on yield record and straw strength) of which five produced total yields higher than oats and three higher total yields than the barley and wheat included in the trial. Einkorn grain yields in comparison to spring wheat under dryland cropping were dependent upon growing season environment (Table 2). The protein content of einkorn when threshed in the hull varied from 10% to 26% higher, and the grain from 50% to 75% higher than the protein content (12.5% to 13.5%) of the hard red wheats. Agronomic production practices for spring grains would be applicable to einkorn, which has a tendency to mature later than spring wheat. Einkorn may be most suitable for cropping in lower moisture environments similar to the northern Great Plains area of Montana. The einkorn accessions tested had only moderate straw strength, averaged 109 cm in height, and would be susceptible to lodging in high moisture environments. The susceptibility to diseases is unknown and may be expressed in high moisture environments.

Marketing and Utilization

In the U.S., einkorn production is presently limited to evaluations of PI accessions for agronomic yield and quality traits, and or germplasm sources for plant breeders to improve protein and disease resistance in the development of modern wheats. However recent studies in Europe and Canada emphasized the nutritional quality of einkorn. Grain protein of einkorn accessions and progeny of einkorn crossings were consistently significantly higher than modern wheats (Vallega 1992). The data also indicate that given the significant increase in yields of the progeny and the higher grain protein, progeny lines produced significantly more protein/ha than the modern wheats. The amino acid composition of einkorn was found to be similar to wheat, irrespective of very large variations in total grain protein among the einkorn accessions tested (Acquistucci et al. 1995). The composition and nutritional characteristics of a selected spring einkorn were compared to spelt and hard red spring wheat grown in Canada (Abdel-Aal et al. 1995). The einkorn accession was considered more nutritious than the hard red wheat, based on the higher level of protein, crude fat, phosphorous, potassium, pyridoxine, and beta-carotene. The gluten of the einkorn accession had a gliadin to glutenin ratio of 2:1 compared to 0.8:1 for durum and hard red wheat. Flour and dough characteristics of gluten from 12 einkorn accessions were compared to durum and common wheats (D'Egidio et al. 1993). The einkorn flours were characterized by high protein, high ash, a very high carotene content, and small flour particle size when compared to the modern bread wheats. Dough characteristics of the einkorn accessions were significantly inferior to the modern wheats. The gluten strength was similar to that of soft wheats, but remained sticky, with a low water retention capacity. While breads made from einkorn were considered to be inferior to emmer or spelt breads (LeClerc et al. 1918), Bond (1989) states that breads made from einkorn in France had a light rich taste which left common bread wheat products tasteless and insipid by comparison. Bond also indicated that similar to ancient civilizations the einkorn grains were used in various food dishes such as soups, salads, casseroles, and sauces. The consideration that flour from T. monococcum may be non toxic to individuals with celiac disease (Favret et al. 1984, 1987) as cited by D'Egidio et al. (1993), and Abdel-Aal et al. (1995) suggest that given the nutritional advantage of einkorn and possible consumption by individuals allergic to common wheats, an increased interest will be given to the diploid wheats.


Origin and Taxonomy

The sites of origin of emmer are considered to be similar to einkorn, within the regions of the Near East (Nevo 1988). Wild emmer T. dicoccoides, like wild einkorn is distinguished by the brittleness of the rachis, which disarticulate when mature. The rachis of cultivated emmer T. dicoccum is less fragile and tends to remain intact until threshed. The genomic constituents of emmer are described in Table 1. The genomic constitution AA of emmer is thought to be derived from T. monococcum. Various sources of the BB genome have been suggested, T. speltoides, T. searsii, and T. tripsacoides (Morris and Sears 1967; Kimber and Sears 1987). Emmers are predominantly awned with spikelets consisting of two well developed kernels. Emmer glumes are long and narrow with sharp beaks.

The use of emmer as a cereal food is considered to be contemporary with that of einkorn. Similar to einkorn, the earliest civilizations initially consumed emmer as a porridge prior to developing the process of bread making.

Remnants of wild emmer in early civilization sites date to the late Paleolithic Age 17,000 BC (Zohary and Hopf 1993). Cultivated emmer emerged as the predominant wheat along with barley as the principal cereals utilized by civilizations in the late Mesolithic, and early Neolithic Ages 10,000 BC (Helmqvist 1955; Harlan 1981; Zohary and Hopf 1993). Cultivated emmer dispersion and use by early civilizations greatly exceeded that of einkorn. Due to the addition of the BB genome cultivated emmer could be grown in a wider range of environments including regions having high growing season temperatures. Cultivated emmer became the dominant wheat throughout the Near and Far East, Europe, and Northern Africa from the Neolithic (Stone Age) through the Bronze Age 10,000-4,000 BC. Emmer utilization continued through the Bronze Age 4,000-1,000 BC, during which the naked wheats, primarily the tetraploid species slowly displaced emmer. However, emmer continued to be popular in isolated regions such as south central Russia into the early 1900s. Presently emmer remains an important crop in Ethiopia and a minor crop in India and Italy (Harlan 1981; Perrino and Hammer 1982).

Agronomy and Production

Several thousand hectares of emmer were grown throughout the midwest and western states in the early 1900s (Martin and Leighty 1924). During this period 5 cultivars and 3 selections were identified and evaluated for yield and quality traits. Emmer yields exceeded yields of barley, oats, and wheat cultivars in years which were characterized by less than favorable growing seasons, and produced equal or lower yields when growing conditions were more suitable for cereal production. Three hundred and 50 PI accessions from the NSGGRF were evaluated for yield and straw strength beginning in 1987 at the SARC. During the past nine years emmer yields (as threshed) averaged from 3,700 to 225 kg/ha. The yields of emmers in comparison to barley, oats, and spring wheat were variable, dependent upon growing season environments and locations. Higher yielding emmer PI accessions would equal barley yields and out yield oats in growing seasons which were less ideal for grain production. Advanced selections of emmer PI accessions produced grain kernel yields ranging from 48% to 74% of spring wheat under dryland cropping (Table 2). Emmer PI 254148, a black-chaffed accession with moderate height and straw strength outyielded barley in low moisture years and consistently outyielded oats in a five year study conducted from 1988-1992 at SARC (Schulz-Schaeffer et al. 1995).

Agronomic practices for emmer production are similar to oats. Emmer test weights are similar to oat test weights (360-440 kg/m3) when grown under dryland cropping at the SARC. Emmer seeding rates are similar to oats, (76 kg/ha) in low rainfall and 100 kg/ha in high rainfall regions. Emmer should be swathed prior to threshing to prevent head shatter loses.

Marketing and Utilization

Presently limited amounts of spring emmer are grown in scattered areas throughout Montana and North Dakota. Two unidentified emmer selections, Cenex emmer and common emmer are grown and available in limited quantities from a small number of seed grain dealers. Emmers marketed and grown in Montana and North Dakota are often mistakenly referred to as spring spelt. The Cenex emmer selection significantly out yields the common emmer which is usually sold by individual farmers. The emmers are grown for grain and used as cattle feed, replacing either oats or barley in feedlot rations. Protein levels of emmer as threshed ranged from 5%-35% higher than oats or barley, while the protein of the grain kernels ranged from 18.5%-21.5% in trials grown in Montana.

Milling and baking studies conducted by LeClerc et al. (1918) indicated that while emmer flour was satisfactory to produce a good loaf of bread, the quality was not equal to breads made from common wheat. Breads produced from whole grain flour of emmers grown at SARC were heavy textured with a pleasing taste that was milder than breads made from rye flour. A recent study at the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT) in Mexico evaluated 137 emmer accessions using gel electrophoresis to identify selections which contain glutenin fractions known to contribute to bread quality (Pena et al. 1993). Evaluation of over 800 lines of wild emmers resulted in the identification of lines which had high protein and high molecular weight sub-units characteristic of gluten having good bread baking quality (Blum et al. 1984). Presently breeding and selection for superior emmer cultivars is being conducted at the Northwest Plant Breeding Co., Pullman, WA (C. Konzak, pers. commun. 1995).


Origin and Taxonomy

The origin of spelt is controversial. While general agreement exists on the origin, extent, and utilization of wild and cultivated einkorn and emmer, archaeobotanists and cereal geneticists have proposed two primary hypothesis for the origin of spelt. One hypothesis suggests a single site of origin in the geographic region of present day Iran. The second suggests two independent sites of origin, the Iranian region and a southeastern European region. Suggested dates for the Iranian origin range from the mid-late Neolithic (Stone Age) 6,000-5,000 BC (Zohary and Hopf 1993). Some authors (Dorofejev 1971; Belea 1971) discuss the possibility of a much later independent European origin, others using genetic markers (McFadden and Sears 1946; Kuckuck 1964); seed protein profiles (Johnson 1972); and genes for resistance to rust (Kema 1992); cite data for support of a common origin such as the Iranian region. While the majority of evidence indicates the single site of origin, possible evidence for both sites are reviewed by Harlan (1981), Kema (1992), and Zohary and Hopf (1994) who reviewed 19 and 21 references by Zohary and Hopf respectively, specific to the origin of cultivated crops. The majority of evidence indicates that the origin of spelt must have occurred when either wild or cultivated emmer (AABB) dispersed to regions where T. tauschii (Ae. squarrosa) (DD) was an indigenous wild grass species.

The genomic constitution of T. spelta is described in Table 1. Similar to the advantage of emmer AABB over einkorn AA, the addition of the genome DD contributed by the wild grass T. tauschii resulted in increasing the adaptation of spelt to an even wider range of environments. Spelt represents the hexaploid series of the Triticum genome constitution (AABBDD) which like the diploid and tetraploid einkorn and emmer is characterized as a "covered wheat," the kernels do not thresh free of the glumes, lemma, and palea. The spelt spikelets contain two well developed kernels, and are characterized by glumes which have wide square shoulders and short obtuse beaks. The spelt spikelets are most often awnless, however many awned selections also exist. While the rachis of the spelt seed head like cultivated einkorn and emmer is fragile, the point at which the spikelet disarticulate is distinctly different. In contrast to einkorn or emmer, which break apart with the rachilla attached to the base of the spikelet, spelt spikelets break apart with the rachilla remaining attached to the face of the spikelet rather than at the spikelet base (Fig. 1).

Spelt was widely distributed from the Near East origin during the Bronze Age (4,000-1,000 BC), throughout the Balkans, Europe, and transcaucasia. Some of the earliest recordings of spelt appear in the Bible (Exodus 9:30, Isaiah 28:25, and Ezekiel 4:9). The first reference to spelt is found in the "Edict of the Roman Empire Dioletian," in 301 (Flaksberger 1930). Along with the free threshing wheats, spelt may have played a role in the first politically established welfare system in Rome, beginning in 59 BC when after food riots, grain was distributed free to the Roman citizens (Harlan 1981). The wide distribution of spelt was facilitated by the northern and southern route migrations of early civilizations westward. Spelt production continues to be a major cereal crop in isolated regions throughout southeastern Europe, primarily in Germany and Switzerland.

Agronomy and Production

U.S. production of emmer and spelt peaked in the early 1900s and declined steadily thereafter. The first recorded U.S. production information on emmer and spelt, records 233,000 ha, primarily in the states of North and South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota. Limited production of spelt also occurred in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, Wyoming, and Texas. Production decreased rapidly during the next ten years to 68,000 ha in 1919. This included predominantly winter spelt and spring emmers. Martin and Leighty (1924) documented the production and utilization of the "covered wheats" einkorn, emmer, and spelt in the U.S. and cited over 70 publications dating from 1899 to 1924. Five spelt cultivars were known to be grown in the U.S. during the 1900s. Martin and Leighty (1924) review 52 studies conducted from Texas to Canada on the yield of emmer and spelt in comparison to barley, oats, and wheat. The inconsistent yield potential and higher protein advantage of spelt could not compete with the progress of breeding programs which improved the yields and quality of barley, oats, and the free threshing wheats. Factors such as limited availability of adapted cultivars, low test weight 465-310 kg/m3 in addition to time and expense of dehulling (for grain use) also contributed to the loss of interest in the covered wheats.

Environmental conditions, particularly growing season precipitation, significantly affected the yield competitiveness of spelt. Winter spelt often outyielded spring oats and barley when early growing season temperatures are cold and moisture is limited. Studies conducted in Germany indicate that the hull of spelt provided an advantage to the seed germination (Ruegger et al. 1990a) and provided protection against soil borne pathogens (Riesen et al. 1986), in conditions unfavorable to germination. Rates of C14 assimilation into developing spelt and wheat kernels were evaluated by Ruegger et al. (1990b). Results indicated that low temperatures had less effect on C14 assimilation into the spelt kernels as compared to wheat.

Yields and agronomic traits varied significantly among the spelt PI accessions grown under dryland at the SARC. Studies (1990-1995) of 1000 PI accessions indicated wide variations in yield (7000-1000 kg/ha), test weight (462-315 kg/m3), days to heading (154-166 days), plant height (97-140 cm), and kernel protein content (15.8-19.2%). Winter spelt data (average of the five highest yielding selections) is compared to winter wheat (Table 3). Spelt yields are given as harvested with the kernel in the hull, and kernel yield only as estimated for a 60% kernel weight thresh out. Percent kernel weight thresh out during the 4 year study ranged from 55%-75%, thus 60% is a conservative estimate. Yield percentage of spelt grain in comparison to the hard red winter wheat check varied from 55%-97% during the 4 year study. Total harvested yields (hull and grain) of spelt grown in Montana were often higher than the total weight of wheat grain harvested. The protein content of the covered wheats when threshed in the hull varied from 10%-26% higher than the protein content (12.5%-13.5%) of hard red wheats, thus offering a potential feed advantage when used for livestock growing rations. However, if used for high concentrate fattening rations, the feed-to-gain ratio is less than barley or maize due to the high percentage of fiber (hull portion) of the covered wheats. Feeding studies with dairy cattle and poultry indicated that the feed value of spelt was similar to oats (Arscott and Harper 1962; Ingalls et al. 1963). Yields and protein content of winter spelt harvested for forage were significantly higher than traditional hay barley or spring oat cultivars (Stallknecht and Gilbertson 1995).

In Montana, some cattle producers in regions of low growing season precipitation, plant spelt in preference to spring oats due to the yield advantage of the winter spelt. Spelt production has however varied significantly. In 1987, 200 Montana farms grew 7300 ha, compared to 1992 when spelt production was recorded as 25 farms and 700 ha (Census of Agr. 1992). Limited spelt production occurs in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, and North Dakota. At present, major spelt production in the U.S. centers in the Midwest, specifically Ohio, which has over 12,000 ha.

`Champ' (a spelt/wheat cross) developed by Ohio State University (Lafever 1988) was the first spelt cultivar released in the U.S. Lafever also released 'GR900', a head selection from a mixed spelt population. Lafever has continued to develop spelt cultivars, for Sunbeam Extract Co. (H. Lafever pers. commun. 1995). Six advanced spelt lines, developed by Sunbeam Extract Co., were included in a yield trial conducted at the SARC in 1995. These lines produced 25%-40% greater yields than the highest yielding spelt PI accessions or spelt cultivars included in the 1995 trials. Northwest Plant Breeders Co., Pullman, Washington is also involved in the development of potential spelt cultivars (C. Konzak pers. commun. 1995). Proprietary European cultivars of spelt, utilized specifically for human food are presently grown in the U.S. for Arrowhead Mills, Texas, and Purity Foods, Michigan (B. Cater pers. commun. 1995; D. Stinchcomb pers. commun. 1995). Foundation and certified seed of Champ, GR900, and an old standard German cultivar, 'Oberkulmer' are available from Frenchs Inc., Waheman, Ohio (L. French pers. commun. 1995).

General information and practical production guides are available for producers interested in spelt production (Lafever and Campbell 1976; Oplinger et al. 1990). The suggested seeding rates for spelt in the Midwest are 90-112 kg/ha. Information generated at SARC, indicated no differences in spelt yields when planted at 67 or 100 kg/ha on dryland or at 100 or 134 kg/ha under irrigation. Seeding of the large hulled spelt seed can be accomplished by use of grain drills which have adjustable openings of sufficient size to accommodate the large pointed seed, and allow for the planting of adequate seeding rates. Smooth drop tubes are desired to prevent seed from lodging and plugging the tube. Midwest studies suggest lower nitrogen fertility rates for spelt in comparison to wheat to compensate for susceptibility to lodging. However, SARC studies have identified selections with excellent straw strength. The advanced semi-dwarf types from Sunbeam Extract Co. have excellent resistance to lodging under higher nitrogen levels which increase the yield potential of spelt. Spelt harvest is generally accomplished by swathing the grain when the stem has not completely turned color. Delayed harvest can result in significant head shatter at maturity.

Studies on the nutritional aspects of spelt report wide variability in the chemical constituents of the grain. Ranhotra, et al. (1995) present data which show few differences between a hard red wheat cultivar and a Canadian spelt selection. The grains were evaluated for gluten traits, chemical composition, amino acid composition, and protein efficiency. The data suggests possible validity to the claim that spelt may be easier for humans to digest than wheat. Recent studies have reported variations in protein, lysine, vitamins, crude fat, minerals, and gliadin/glutenin ratios among spelt selections (Abdel-Aal et al. 1995; Ranhotra et al. 1995, 1996a). A study was initiated by SARC in 1994 to evaluate the performance of three spelt selections, and two hard red wheat cultivars for yield, protein, lysine, fiber, and carbohydrate content over five environments in Montana and North Dakota (Ranhotra et al. 1996b). Results indicate that while variable among locations, the protein content of all spelt selections grown at all locations was consistently higher (18%-40%) than that of the hard red wheats. Lysine content was lower in spelt compared to the wheat, and was inversely related to percent protein. The inverse relationship between percent protein and lysine content of spelt has been reported previously. Variations in protein and lysine content and the inverse protein/lysine relationship were recorded for 164 spelt selections grown over a three year period in Belgium (Clamot 1984). The results on nutritional constituents of the preceding study indicate that variations in the protein content of the grain for a given species is highly dependent upon cropping practices and environmental conditions.

Marketing and Utilization

Spelt is the only "covered wheat" species grown and marketed in the U.S. for human food. Stimulated by market promotions, spelt planted for human consumption increased from less than 40 ha to over 3200 ha between 1987 and the present. Organic and commercial spelt are grown under contract and graded for test weight and percent protein (B. Carter pers. commun. 1995; Stinchcomb pers. commum. 1995). Spelt products are available through organic health food outlets as grain, whole grain and white flours, and processed products. Processed products include assorted pasta, cold and hot cereals, and pre-packaged bread, muffin, and pancake mixes. Baking qualities of spelt cultivars available in the early 1900s were evaluated by LeClerc et al. (1918). The authors reported that good loaves of bread could be produced from spelt flours. Evaluations of spring spelt accessions for bread and pasta products have been conducted in Canada (Hucl et al. 1995). Results indicated that spelt flours treated with an oxidant produced loaf volumes similar to bread wheats. The Canadian researchers anticipate releasing a spring spelt cultivar in 1996.

The suggested attributes of spelt relative to wheat are ease of digestion, taste, and that individuals with certain allergies to common bread wheats can consume spelt. The success of The Berlin Natural Bakery, Berlin, OH, a major commercial bakery of spelt products is based on the attributes given to spelt (H. Graves pers. commun. 1995). In Europe spelt harvested in the hard dough stage and roasted is called "Grunkern," and is considered a "gourmet" food to be used in breads, cereal, soups and casseroles.


Origin and Taxonomy

The origin of Kamut is thought to have occurred contemporary with the free threshing tetraploid wheats, and is considered to be an ancient relative of modern durum wheats (R. Quinn pers. commun. 1995). The identification of Kamut has been confusing, at least two scientists identify it as Triticum turgidum, ssp. polonicum another as Triticum turgidum, ssp. turanicum. More recently, taxonomists specializing in wheat from the U.S. and Russia have identified Kamut as T. turgidum, ssp. durum, genomic constitution AABB (Table 1), or similar to an Egyptian cultivar `Egiptianka'. The inflorescence is somewhat less dense than wheat. The spikelet lemmas have strong long black awns and the glumes have a distinct black acuminate beak. The stem immediately below the inflorescence is characterized by a distinctive wavy morphological trait (Fig. 2). Kamut kernels are twice the size of wheat kernels and are characterized by a distinctive hump shape.

Agronomy and Production

Kamut arrived in the U.S. approximately 40 years ago, when a U.S. airman mailed 36 kernels from Egypt to his father in Montana. The seed was increased and produced commercially for a few years, but was discontinued due to lack of markets and yield averages which were lower than wheat. In 1977, the Quinn family secured a quart jar of remnant seed from which they selected and propagated a specific seed type that was registered as QK 77, and named Kamut, a word thought to mean wheat in ancient Egypt. Kamut production in the U.S. is determined through exclusive contracts with Montana Flour and Grains, Big Sandy (R. Quinn, pers. commun, 1995). All contracts require organic certification of the crop and agronomic practices for production are outlined by Montana Flour and Grains. Results of yield comparisons between Kamut and hard red spring wheats are similar to the results observed in the comparisons between "the covered wheats" and other free threshing wheats. Kamut will out yield spring wheats when environmental stresses are experienced during the growing season, and yield equal to or lower in more ideal growing seasons. Kamut plant height reaches 127 cm with good to excellent straw strength.

Marketing and Utilization

Kamut grains represent one of the most extensive specialty cereal product lines available, and is marketed primarily through health food outlets. Presently 70 plus processors list over 100 Kamut products in the U.S. and Canada under regulation of the Kamut Association of North America (KANA), and the Kamut Association of Europe (KAME). Kamut products include whole grain flour, breads, hot and cold cereals, pastas, and chips, in addition to a green plant dehydrated product. Kamut grains are generally higher in protein when compared to wheat when grown under similar environments. Kamut products made from whole grain flours have a mild, nutty flavor. Individuals who experienced certain types of allergic reactions to products made from common wheat are able to eat Kamut products.


Origin and Taxonomy

The first wheat/rye cross is considered to have occurred in Scotland in 1875. Several publications outline the historical progress of triticale in the 20th century (Stoskopf 1985; National Research Council 1989; Villareal et al. 1990). The initial crosses between wheat and rye were sterile, with the first fertile crosses made in Germany in 1888. The name triticale first appeared in literature published in Germany in 1935. The first release of a commercial triticale cultivar occurred in Europe, while `Rosner' a Canadian release was the first triticale cultivar developed in North America.

Triticale (xTriticosecale) genomic constitution AABBRR or AABBDDRR (Table 1) is an artificial cereal crop genus created from crosses between wheat Triticum sp. and rye (Secale cereale L.) (Table 1). Triticale can be octoploids or tetraploids, however most triticale cultivars are hexaploids. Hexaploid triticale synthesized from wheats (AABB) and rye (RR) are called primary hexaploids, while hexaploid triticale synthesized from crosses of hexaploid triticale and/or hexaploid wheats or octoploid triticale are called secondary hexaploid triticale (Lukaszewski and Gustafson 1987). One advantage of the secondary hexaploid triticale is the increased genomic diversity, including the insertion of portions of the D genome from the hexaploid wheats. Triticale have either winter or spring growth habit, vary significantly in plant height, tend to tiller less, and generally have larger inflorescence in comparison to wheat. The majority of triticale cultivars have prominent awns, however recently, a limited number of both spring and winter types exhibiting awnless traits (less than 5 mm) have become available which have increased potential for use as a hay forage for livestock.

Agronomy and Production

The history of triticale breeding for cultivar development has been an agronomic success story. The first triticale cultivars were characterized by low yields, tall weak straw, shrunken and shriveled kernels, high susceptibility to ergot [Claviceps purpurea (Fr.) Tul.], high protein, and high levels of the amino acid lysine. The advantage of high protein and high lysine in swine and poultry rations were nullified by the poor yield performance and the high incidence of ergot. However, triticale cultivars released in recent years have improved agronomic traits including high yields, resistance to lodging and ergot, plump kernels, and lysine levels higher than other cereal grains (Skovmand et al. 1984). The higher yield potential and plumper kernels of modern triticale cultivars have resulted in lower kernel protein levels which are similar to common bread wheats. Triticale cultivars at SARC, Montana, have consistently produced yields higher than spring and winter wheats grown under irrigated and dryland cropping (Table 4). Test weight of triticale averaged 90 kg/m3 (less than wheat), while heading date and percent protein were similar to the wheats. Research evaluations in Germany have also shown that modern triticale selections produce higher yields and equal or lower protein levels as compared to winter wheat cultivars (Karpstein-Machan and Heyn 1992). The authors concluded that triticale utilized soil and applied nitrogen more efficiently than winter wheat.

Emphasis on triticale development has steadily declined in the U.S. in recent years due in part to limited marketing opportunities, and to the U.S. Government wheat and barley support programs. Presently the majority of triticale grown in the U.S. is harvested as forage for livestock feed. Triticale cultivar development, production and utilization has been extensively reviewed during the past 15 years (Lorenz 1974a; Forsberg 1985; Nat. Res. Council 1989; Villareal et al. 1990). More recently gene transformation techniques are being used in an attempt to develop triticale cultivars which have hard white kernels, similar to the increased interest in the development of the hard white common bread wheats (R. Metzger pers. commun. 1995).

Several production guides outline cultural practices and utilization of triticale (Oelke et al. 1989; Salmon and Jedel 1993). However, many of the triticale cultivars discussed in these guides have been replaced by improved cultivars in recent years. Cultural practices at SARC indicate that seeding rates and fertility requirements are similar to wheat when grown for grain, however triticale seeding rates for forage use must be increased to 80 kg/ha low moisture dryland and 107 kg/ha under irrigated cropping, to compensate for reduced tillering as compared to other cereals.

Marketing and Utilization

Triticale grains, flours, and prepared products are available through both health food and commercial outlets on a limited basis. Triticale is often included in prepared mixed-grain hot and cold cereals, and muffin flours. Triticale bread and cracker products were available in the early 1980s to western Canada consumers when triticale was grown to the advantage of farmers under wheat grain marketing programs. While consumers demand was high, the triticale products became unavailable due to the lack of farm production as a result of changes in the wheat marketing program (D. Salmon, pers. commun. 1995). Detailed studies on the nutritional composition and baking quality of triticale have been conducted during the past 20 years (Lorenz 1974b, 1982; Nat. Res. Council 1989). The data indicate that while the nutritional quality of triticale is considered superior to wheat, the higher ash content, lower milling yields of flour, and inferior loaf volume and texture distract from commercial baking use of triticale. In 1991, nine of the twenty two papers presented at the 2nd International Triticale Symposium related specifically to the advances in the nutritional, and baking quality of triticale, an indication of significant interest in the promotion of triticale (CIMMYT 1991). Recent studies by Pena and Amaya (1992) indicate that triticale flour blends of up to 50% with wheat flours produce breads with quality similar to breads made from wheat flours only.


Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of including a variety of cereal grains as a major portion of their diets. Increased consumption of cereals should spawn consumer interest to seek out breads and products made from cereal grains other than from common bread wheat cultivars. The key factor in producing light textured breads is gluten quality of the flour. While the desired gluten traits have been successfully obtained in common bread wheats through many years of intensive cultivar development, little or no effort was applied to the alternative cereal crops described in this publication. Recently, however, studies have been directed to the gluten quality of einkorn, emmer, spelt, and triticale. Studies on gluten quality of common wheat cultivars suggest that characteristics of high molecular weight glutenin subunits, which are controlled by specific genes, are responsible for baking quality (MacRitchie et al. 1990). High molecular weight glutenin subunits considered to have good bread making qualities have been identified in emmer (Pena et al. 1993), spelt (Rodriquez-Quijano et al. 1990), and triticale (Bittle and Gustafson 1991; Smith et al. 1994). Cultivar development for the specific improvement of spelt protein quality for baking quality is also in progress (H. Lafever, pers. commun. 1995). Genetic studies for development of improved einkorn, emmer, and spelt are in progress, Crop Development Center, Univ. of Saskatoon, SK (P. Hucl pers. commun. 1996).

Presently, the dough characteristics of flours from the alternative cereals lack some of the traits required by commercial bakeries to produce light texture and adequate loaf volumes. Bread loaves produced entirely from whole grain flours of emmer, spelt, Kamut, and triticale, while having a range of pleasing flavors, tend to have a heavy dense texture. Bread having lighter textures can be made from whole grain flour of the alternative cereals utilizing dough additives to increase loaf volume. Surfactant (lecithin), oxidants (ascorbic acid), and lipids (shortening), enhance the texture and freshness of baked products. Home bakers may also consider the sponge-and-dough procedure as described by Hoseny (1992) which produces a softer, well flavored bread loaf.

Readers interested in the processes involved in bread making, may refer to a condensed publication (Hoseney 1992) or a comprehensive book on cereal chemistry and products (Hoseney 1994) which details the chemistry of making bread. An excellent book on baking describes the use of cereal crop species (other than common bread wheat), pseudo cereals, and tuber flours for use in the baking of both yeast and non-yeast breads (Dumke 1992). The combination of both gluten and non-gluten ingredients for use in non-traditional breads is near endless.

One of the most alluring aspects of the alternate cereals is the consideration that food products from einkorn, emmer, spelt, and Kamut are relatively hypoallergenic in comparison to food products made form the common bread wheats. Individuals who suffer certain allergic reactions to common bread wheat products state that the reactions are absent when consuming either kamut or spelt products. Research results suggest that a gliadin fraction of the wheat gluten may be responsible for the allergic reactions (Auricchio et al. 1982, 1985). Differences in gliadin proteins between spelt and common bread wheats have been reported (Federmann et al. 1992; Hucl et al. 1995). However, the factors which are responsible for the variations in allergic responses remains unknown. Recent studies also suggest that durum flours may offer an alternative to individuals with allergies to common wheat flour (Boyacioglu and D'Appolonia 1994a,b).


Table 1. Genomic constitution of wheats and their relatives.

Species Genome
Common name
Diploid (2n = 14)
Triticum boeoticum, Boiss. emend. Schiem. AA Wild einkorn
T. aegilopoides Link Bal. Single grain einkorn
T. thaoudar Reuter Two grain einkorn
T. urartu Tuman Two grain einkorn
Triticum monococcum L. AA Einkorn (cultivated)
Triticum speltoides (Tausch) Gren. Ex Richter BB Wild grass
Triticum tripsacoides (Jaub. & Spach) Bowden BB Wild grass
Triticum searsii (Feldman & Kislev) Feldman, comb. nov. BB Wild grass
Triticum tauschii (Coss) Schmal. (Ag. squarerosa) DD Wild grass
Secale cereale L. RR Rye (cultivated)
Tetraploid (2n = 28)
Triticum turgidum L. group dicoccoides (Korn, in litt. in Schweinf.) Bowden AABB Emmer (wild)
Triticum turgidum L. group dicoccum, (Schrank) Thell. AABB Emmer (cultivated)
Triticum turgidum L. group Durum Desf. AABB Durum
Triticum turgidum, ssp. turanicumz AABB Kamut
Triticum turgidum, ssp. polonicum AABB Polish wheat
Hexaploid (2n = 42)
Triticum spelta, L. AABBDD Spelt (cultivated)
Triticum aestivum L. (em. Thell.) AABBDD Common wheat (cultivated)
xTriticosecale (Wittmack)y AABBRR Triticale
zSuggested species, sub-species, Kamutreg. registered trademark of Kamut International.
yMost triticale cultivars are hexaploid but can be octaploids or tetraploids.

Table 2. Yield comparisons of spring wheat, emmer, and einkorn under dryland cropping in south central Montana, 1992 to 1994.

Dehulled grain yieldz (kg/ha) % of wheaty
1992 2550 48
1993 1880 84
1994 1540 59
1992 4220 79
1993 1420 64
1994 2160 82
1992 5370
1993 2250
1994 2630
zEmmer and einkorn grain yields were estimated at 60 percent of hulled grain.
y'Newana' hard red spring wheat was used as the check wheat against the 5 highest yielding emmer and einkorn selections.

Table 3. Winter spelt and hard red winter wheat multi-year yields under dryland cropping in south central Montana, 1991 to 1994.

Year Speltz as harvested w/hulls (kg/ha) Spelt yieldy (kg/ha) Wheat yieldx (kg/ha) Spelt yield as % of wheat
1991 6070 3640 3760 97
1992 3650 2190 3430 64
1993 7070 4240 5910 72
1994 3480 2090 3830 55
zYield of the 5 highest yielding spelt selections.
ySpelt grain yield was estimated at 60% of hulled grain when dehulled.
x'Tiber' winter wheat.

Table 4. Comparisons of yield and quality of spring and winter triticale and hard red spring and winter wheat standard varieties grown in south central Montana, 1990-1993.

Cultivar Yield (kg/ha) Test wt. (kg/m3) Head date (Julian days) Protein content (%)
'Tiber' hard red winter wheat 4232 766 155 13.4
'Newana' hard red spring wheat 3360 755 166 14.6
Winter triticalez 4620 659 153 12.8
Spring triticalez 3758 646 162 13.7
'Newana' hard red spring wheat 6047 775 165 11.4
Spring triticalex 7400 669 163 10.4
zTriticale data is the average of the three top yielding varieties in each respective year.

Fig. 1. Spikelet and kernels of einkorn, emmer, and spelt.

Fig. 2. Seed heads of einkorn, emmer, spelt, and Kamut.

Last update August 15, 1997 aw