ArticlePDF Available

Agriculture in Marginal Areas: Reintroduction of Rye and Wheat Varieties for Breadmaking in the Antrona Valley

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

In marginal lands, cereal landraces continue to be important in agricultural production, whereas hybrids lose their competitive advantage. In this context, selection for adaptation to each environment is particularly important in crops grown under unfavourable conditions, e.g., mountain areas. In this work, from a panel of traditional and modern varieties, mixtures and evolutionary populations, a randomised block experiment was established to select the most productive and suitable wheat and rye varieties specific for the Antrona Valley. The nutritional analysis of each flour was carried out. The results obtained in two years of varietal comparison suggested that rye is more suitable than wheat for growing in this environment: Alpina rye showed the highest yield/m2 and the highest ash content (1.87% ± 0.03%; p < 0.05) compared to other varieties, indicating it as suitable for the baking process. Among wheats, San Pastore showed the highest number of ears/m2 (411 and 350; p < 0.05) compared to others. However, in a context of climate change, the cultivation of Solibam could ensure yield stability, thanks to the high variability within the evolutionary population. Overall, our results demonstrated the possible reintroduction of the cereal supply chain in the Valley and the resumption of the historic rye bread production.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Citation: Colombo, F.; Franguelli, N.;
Licheri, G.; Ghidoli, M.; Cassani, E.;
Castelli, L.; Pasquali, M.; Bresciani,
A.; Marti, A.; Dell’Anno, M.; et al.
Agriculture in Marginal Areas:
Reintroduction of Rye and Wheat
Varieties for Breadmaking in the
Antrona Valley. Agronomy 2022,12,
1695. https://doi.org/10.3390/
agronomy12071695
Academic Editor:
Sambasivam Periyannan
Received: 16 May 2022
Accepted: 13 July 2022
Published: 18 July 2022
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral
with regard to jurisdictional claims in
published maps and institutional affil-
iations.
Copyright: © 2022 by the authors.
Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and
conditions of the Creative Commons
Attribution (CC BY) license (https://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/
4.0/).
agronomy
Article
Agriculture in Marginal Areas: Reintroduction of Rye and
Wheat Varieties for Breadmaking in the Antrona Valley
Federico Colombo 1, NicolòFranguelli 1, Gianni Licheri 1, Martina Ghidoli 1, Elena Cassani 1, Lorenzo Castelli 1,
Matias Pasquali 2, Andrea Bresciani 2, Alessandra Marti 2, Matteo Dell’Anno 3, Luciana Rossi 3,
Ivano De Negri 4, Michela Landoni 5and Roberto Pilu 1, *
1Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences—Production, Landscape and Agroenergy,
University of Milan, Via Celoria 2, 20133 Milan, Italy; federico.colombo@unimi.it (F.C.);
nicolo.franguelli@studenti.unimi.it (N.F.); gianni.licheri@unimi.it (G.L.); martina.ghidoli@unimi.it (M.G.);
elena.cassani@unimi.it (E.C.); lorenzo.castelli@studenti.unimi.it (L.C.)
2Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences, University of Milan, Via Celoria 2,
20133 Milan, Italy; matias.pasquali@unimi.it (M.P.); andrea.bresciani@unimi.it (A.B.);
alessandra.marti@unimi.it (A.M.)
3Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of Milan, Via Dell’Università6,
26900 Lodi, Italy; matteo.dellanno@unimi.it (M.D.); luciana.rossi@unimi.it (L.R.)
4Ente di Gestione delle Aree Protette dell’Ossola, Viale Pieri 13, 28868 Varzo, Italy; ivano.denegri@gmail.com
5Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Pavia, Via S. Epifanio 14, 27100 Pavia, Italy;
michela.landoni@unimi.it
*Correspondence: salvatore.pilu@unimi.it
Abstract:
In marginal lands, cereal landraces continue to be important in agricultural production,
whereas hybrids lose their competitive advantage. In this context, selection for adaptation to each
environment is particularly important in crops grown under unfavourable conditions, e.g., mountain
areas. In this work, from a panel of traditional and modern varieties, mixtures and evolutionary
populations, a randomised block experiment was established to select the most productive and
suitable wheat and rye varieties specific for the Antrona Valley. The nutritional analysis of each
flour was carried out. The results obtained in two years of varietal comparison suggested that rye is
more suitable than wheat for growing in this environment: Alpina rye showed the highest yield/m
2
and the highest ash content (1.87%
±
0.03%; p< 0.05) compared to other varieties, indicating it as
suitable for the baking process. Among wheats, San Pastore showed the highest number of ears/m
2
(411 and 350; p< 0.05) compared to others. However, in a context of climate change, the cultivation of
Solibam could ensure yield stability, thanks to the high variability within the evolutionary population.
Overall, our results demonstrated the possible reintroduction of the cereal supply chain in the Valley
and the resumption of the historic rye bread production.
Keywords:
agrobiodiversity; landraces; traditional varieties; evolutionary populations; mountain
agriculture; marginal areas; biodiversity; rye; wheat
1. Introduction
The loss of biodiversity has been a crucial problem in the last century, and it was
estimated that about 75% of the species of living things used for food and agriculture
were lost; nowadays, three-quarters of global food produced is composed of only five
animal species and twelve plant species [
1
5
]. Thus, the safeguarding and the promotion
of agrobiodiversity have been central issues in recent decades [68].
A fundamental role in maintaining cereal agrobiodiversity over the centuries has
been played by farmers saving seeds at harvest for the next generation and enhancing
the gene flow through seed exchanges with neighbours and with the introduction of
local varieties [
9
]. These practices underline the importance of farmer communities and
traditional farming systems in the development and maintenance of landraces [
10
]. In
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12071695 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/agronomy
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 2 of 16
this context, landraces are defined as dynamic populations of cultivated plants that are
characterised by historical origin and distinct identity, and a lack of commercial crop
improvement, as well as being locally adaptable, genetically diverse and associated with
traditional farming [
11
]. A comprehensive knowledge of landrace diversity is fundamental
to define the best sampling strategies; therefore, the GeneBank core collections are used to
ensure precise documentation [12,13].
Landraces played a key role in the history of crops worldwide. Farmers cultivated
these traditional varieties until the Second World War, when more productive hybrids were
introduced and led to the gradual disappearance of landraces [
14
]. The introduction of
modern cultivars, combined with the mass exodus of the young workforce from rural areas,
led to the consequent abandonment of traditional agricultural practices [15].
However, cereal landraces are still considered important in agricultural production,
particularly in marginal lands and mountain areas where hybrids lose their competitive
advantage [
16
18
]. In fact, the adaptability of landraces to unfavourable conditions con-
tributes to yield stability [
19
] and to abiotic and biotic stress tolerance [
20
,
21
]. In this
context, the selection for specific adaptation to each target environment is particularly
important in crops that are grown in unfavourable conditions, e.g., mountain areas, because
unfavourable environments can be very different from each other, whereas favourable
environments tend to be similar [
22
]. Conventional plant breeding has been successful in
favourable environments, or in those that can be made favourable by using chemical inputs;
it has been much less successful in marginal areas. Even in areas where conventional
crop breeding has given the advantage, there are different environmental and biodiversity
concerns, such as the heavy use of chemical inputs required by modern varieties and the
narrowing of the genetic basis of crops. Conversely, by selecting for specific adaptations,
cultivars which are suitable to marginal areas can be obtained. This approach is more
sustainable than others which rely on altering the environment to fit new cultivars used for
plain agriculture [22].
Rye bread is a type of bread made with different proportions of rye/wheat flour and
it was considered a staple food until the beginning of the second half of the last century,
when it was abandoned following the depopulation of the mountain areas. In recent years,
a renewed interest in this product has been growing due to the nutritional properties of
rye flour.
Cereals are a major source of mycotoxin ingestion in the human diet. Rye in particular
may be highly infested with Claviceps spp. sclerotia, which often lead to the accumulation of
ergot alkaloids in the flour. These compounds have significant effects on human and animal
health as they exert both cytotoxin and neurological noxious activity [
23
]. Starting from
January 2022, EU limits for ergot alkaloids in rye were introduced, set at 500
µ
g/kg, which
will be further reduced to 250
µ
g/kg in July 2024 as the maximum amount of ergotamine
and related ergot compounds to protect consumer safety. For this reason, assessing the
toxicological risk posed by rye flour produced in marginal areas is deemed fundamental.
In the frame of the SOCIAAALP (reti SOCIALi per Agro Ambienti ALPini) project,
the aim of the present work was to encourage the reintroduction of traditional cereals in
the Antrona Valley (Piedmont) in order to revive the historic rye bread production chain
which was abandoned several years ago. The goal was to identify crop varieties suitable to
the physical and the socio-economic environment of the Antrona Valley. In this project, we
evaluated in randomised block designs the best rye and wheat varieties for the Antrona
Valley terraced environment. The comparisons were carried out on different varieties and
evolutionary populations of rye and wheat in order to evaluate the most suitable varieties
for agronomic performance in the environmental context of the Antrona Valley. Nutritional
analysis of each flour was also carried out.
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 3 of 16
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Plant Material
The variety comparison was made taking into consideration different types of rye
and wheat: traditional and modern varieties, mixtures and evolutionary populations were
compared. The complete list is shown in Table 1. For wheat, the following varieties were as-
sessed: (i) 7 Grani, a mixture of seven different traditional varieties: Gentilrosso, Andriolo,
Verna, Sieve, Inallettabile, Frassineto; (ii) Giorgione, a traditional variety characterised by
excellent tillering capacity and excellent milling quality flour; (iii) Mentana, a traditional va-
riety obtained from Nazareno Strampelli in 1918; (iv) Solibam, an evolutionary population
established in 2009 by the ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in the
Dry Areas), starting from 2000 crosses of common wheat; (v) Tengri, a newly synthesised
variety obtained by the Swiss geneticist Peter Kunz, specific for organic farming and char-
acterised by good resistance to rust; (vi) San Pastore, a traditional variety characterised by
good resistance to lodging, selected in the early 1900s by the geneticist Nazareno Strampelli.
The seeds were provided by Andrea Messa from the “Grani dell’Asta del Serio” association.
For rye, the following varieties were evaluated: (i) SKTP50, a blend of Stanko rye
(50%) and Tradizionale Piemonte (50%),which will become, starting from the second year,
an evolutionary population since rye is an allogamous species; (ii) Stanko, a variety of
neo-synthesis; (iii) Tradizionale Piemonte, a traditional variety of Piedmont; (iv) Alpina
rye, a traditional variety coming from the Italian valleys of the Cuneo area, more precisely
from Coumboscuro (Valle Grana). It was provided by Andrea Messa from the “Grani
dell’Ativesta del Serio” association.
In the second year, the experimentation was carried out by sowing the same starting
materials as in the first year, since rye is an allogamous species and it is necessary to avoid
the effects of hybridisations. However, for the SKTP50 mixture, the seed collected in the
first year was sown in the second, in order to allow its evolution at the local level.
Table 1.
Varieties of wheat and rye used. Experiments were carried out in two locations: Varchignoli
and Valleggia.
Crop Variety Abbreviation Typology Experimental Field
Wheat
7 Grani * 7G Mix
Varchignoli
Giorgione GG Traditional variety
Mentana MT Traditional variety
Solibam SB Evolutionary
population
Tengri TG Modern variety
San Pastore SP Traditional variety Valleggia
Rye
SKTP50 ** SKTP50 Mix
Varchignoli
Stanko SK Modern variety
Tradizionale Piemonte TP Traditional variety
Alpina AP Traditional variety Valleggia
* Mix of traditional varieties: Gentilrosso, Andriolo, Verna, Sieve, Inallettabile, Frassineto. ** Mix of Stanko (50%)
and Tradizionale Piemonte (50%).
2.2. Experimental Design
Experiments were carried out during two growing seasons (2019/2020 and 2020/2021)
in two locations in the Antrona Valley (VB): Varchignoli (584 a.s.l, 46
4
0
N; 8
14
0
E) and
Valleggia (750 a.s.l, 46
3
0
N; 8
12
0
E). The experiments were laid out in randomised blocks
and each variety was cultivated in three plots, the size of which was 4 m
2
(4 m
×
1 m)
each. The sowing soil was prepared by rotovation using a motor hoe. The sowing was
carried out in rows, using a manual seeder, at a density of 200 kg/ha. The seeds of each
variety were sown at the end of October in both years. Both the experimental fields were on
marginal land, and the Valleggia site was previously used as a vegetable garden. Periodic
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 4 of 16
monitoring was conducted during the crop cycle, but no further agronomic interventions
were carried out. The harvest was performed manually at the end of July for each year. The
characteristics of the soils are reported in Table S1.
2.3. Agronomic Parameters
At maturity, the following agronomic parameters were measured: yield, number of
ears per m
2
, single-seed weight and plant height. The yield was estimated by threshing the
harvested ears (with a mechanical thresher) and weighing the seeds obtained. Subsequently,
the potential yield was reported in t/ha. The number of ears per m
2
was obtained by
counting the number of ears collected for each plot and dividing it by the area of the single
parcel. The single-seed weight was determined by weighing 100 seeds and dividing this
value by 100. The plant height of ten representative plants for each plot was measured
using a measuring rod before the harvest.
2.4. Compositional Analysis
Wheat and rye samples were ground, passed through a 1 mm screen grid and analysed
for the bromatological composition following the official methods of the Association of
Official Analytical Chemists [
24
]. In particular, the dry matter (DM) was obtained by drying
samples in a forced air oven at 65
C for 24 h (AOAC method 930.15). Crude protein was
determined by the Kjeldahl method (AOAC method 2001.11). Crude fat was obtained
through ether extraction using the Soxtec system (AOAC method 2003.05). Crude fibre was
evaluated using the filter bag technique [
25
]. Ash content was measured after incinerating
samples in a muffle furnace at 550
C for 3 h (AOAC method 942.05). Starch content was
assessed after passing ground samples through a 0.5 mm screen by using a colorimetric kit
following the manufacturers’ instructions (Total Starch Assay Kit AA/AMG, Megazyme
Ltd., Bray, Ireland). Absorbances were measured with a spectrophotometer at 510 nm (V630
UV-Vis, Jasco GmBH, Pfungstadt, Germany). All samples were analysed in triplicate and
the results are presented as the percentage of dry matter (DM%).
2.5. Mixing and Leavening Properties
In the following mixing and leavening tests, as well as for bread production
(Section 2.6)
,
the rye produced in Cheggio was used. Cheggio is a village in the Antrona Valley, where
the evolutionary population (composed by Stanko, Tradizionale Piemonte and Alpina rye)
was expanded for the production of flour and the consequent bread production. Regarding
wheat, the one from Val Vigezzo (Piedmont) was chosen for dough characterisation and
bread production. The grinding of kernels was carried out using a stone mill. Wheat was
used alone, whereas rye was mixed with wheat in the proportion of 30:70.
Mixing properties were assessed by means of the Farinograph-E (Brabender GmbH
& Co. KG, Duisburg, Germany) with a 50 g kneading bowl, following the ICC 115/1
approved method [26].
Dough leavening properties were investigated using a rheofermentometer (Chopin
Technologies, Villeneuve-la-Garenne, France). Dough was prepared by mixing for 8 min
in the alveograph (Chopin Technologies, Villeneuve-la-Garenne, France) 250 g of flour,
3.5 g of dried yeast, 1.2% of NaCl and 2.85 g of sugar. The hydration level was selected
according to the farinographic analysis. Then, 315 g of dough was transferred into the
rheofermentometer chamber for leavening (3 h at 30 C).
2.6. Breadmaking and Characterisation
The bread was prepared in a breadmaking machine (Imetec Zero-glu PRO, Tenacta
Group SpA, Azzano San Paolo, Italy) from both wheat flour and the rye-wheat blend
(30:70). Flour (350 g) was added to water (in the amount suggested by the farinographic
analysis), as was 3.5 g of powder yeast (Cameo S.p.A., Desenzano del Garda, Italy), 10 g
of virgin olive oil (Oleificio Zucchi S.p.A., Cremona, Italy), 7 g of sugar (Eridania S.p.A.,
Russi, Italy) and 7 g of NaCl (VWR Chemicals, LLC, Solon, OH, USA). After 25 min of
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 5 of 16
kneading and 1 h of leavening, the dough was manually divided into 6 loaves of 95 g each.
The loaves were then baked for 70 min at 150
C in the breadmaking machine. For each
loaf of bread, the specific volume, colour, texture, moisture content and water activity were
determined. Specific volume was calculated as the ratio between the apparent volume,
assayed by the seed replacement method (AACC 10–05.01) [
27
], and bread weight. The
colour of the crust and crumb were determined with a colourimeter, the CR 300 (Minolta
Co., Osaka, Japan), and the results were expressed in the CIE L*a*b* colour space. The
texture was measured with a texture analyser (TA.XTplus, Stable Micro System, Surrey,
UK). A slice of 2.5 cm was cut from each loaf and the firmness was determined according to
the AACC 74.09 method. Water activity was determined with a water activity measurement
device (Novasina Lab Master-aw) and moisture content with a thermobalance (Radwag
Wagi Elektroniczne, Chorzow, Poland).
2.7. Mycotoxin Analysis
Mycotoxin analysis was carried out by Romer Labs (AUT) on three biological repli-
cates of a representative sample of rye flour obtained from the bulk (Stanko, Tradizionale
Piemonte and Alpina rye) cultivated in Cheggio. The extraction and analytical method
was carried out according to the EN 17,280 method [
28
] on 100 g of rye flour monitor-
ing the following mycotoxins: 15-acetoxyscirpenol, 15-acetyl-deoxynivalenol, 3-acetyl-
deoxynivalenol, aflatoxin B1, aflatoxin B2, aflatoxin G1, aflatoxin G2, agroclavin, alpha-
ergocryptine, alpha-ergocryptinine, alpha-zearalenol, alternariol,beauvericin, beta-zearalenol,
deoxynivalenol, deoxynivalenol-3-glucoside, diacetoxyscirpenol, dihydrolysergol, elymo-
clavin, enniatin A, enniatin A1, enniatin B, enniatin B1, ergine, ergocornine, ergocorninine,
ergocristine, ergocristinine, ergometrine, ergometrinine, ergosine, ergotamine, fumonisin
B1, fumonisin B2, fumonisin B3, fusarenon X, gliotoxin, HT-2 toxin, moniliformin, mycophe-
nolic acid, neosolaniol, nivalenol, ochratoxin A, ochratoxin B, patulin, penicillanic acid,
roquefortine C, sterigmatocystin, T-2 toxin, T-2 triol, T-2 tetraol, zearalanone, zearalenone.
The LOQ (limit of quantification) and LOD (limit of detection) for the method are reported
in the results table.
2.8. Statistical Analysis
Microsoft Excel
®
was used to collect data. SPSS
®
was used to perform a t-test or one-
way ANOVA on sampled data. For evaluating post hoc pairwise comparisons, Tukey’s test
was used. Results are presented as least square means
±
standard deviation. Statistically
significant differences are considered for p0.05.
3. Results
3.1. Comparison of Wheat Varieties over Two Years: Agronomic Aspects
Experiments were carried out during two growing seasons (2019/2020 and 2020/2021)
in two locations in the Antrona Valley (VB): Varchignoli (584 a.s.l) and Valleggia (750 a.s.l).
The varietal comparison was made taking into consideration different types of rye and
wheat and the complete list is shown in Table 1. The experiment was organised in ran-
domised blocks and different parameters were collected to select the best varieties for
each environment. In the first location, Varchignoli, five different varieties of wheat were
grown under the same conditions and the results obtained after two years of comparison
are reported in Figure 1. The following agronomic parameters were measured for each
variety: yield, number of ears per m
2
, single-seed weight and plant height. Starting from
the estimated yield, this value was almost always below 1 t/ha and, except for the Gior-
gione variety, it was lower in the second year compared to the first (p< 0.05; Figure 1A).
These yields were significantly lower than those recorded in the other location, Valleggia
(Figure 2A). In this context, it is important to remember that the site of Valleggia was
previously used as a vegetable garden. The only wheat variety grown here, San Pastore,
showed a constant yield of more than 4 t/ha for both years (Figure 2A). In line with the
yield, a high number of ears per m
2
was recorded for San Pastore: on average, there were
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 6 of 16
411 in the first year and 350 in the second (p< 0.05; Figure 2B). The number of ears per m
2
was lower in the varieties grown in Varchignoli: in Mentana, 229 ears were counted in the
first year and 171 in the second year. The other varieties grown here showed fewer ears
than Mentana (p< 0.05; Figure 1B). Another parameter measured for all the accessions in
the two locations was the single-seed weight: in Varchignoli, in the 7 Grani mix and in the
evolutionary population of Solibam the values reached 61 mg in the first year, whereas
in the same year they were statistically lower in Mentana and Tengri (46.6
±
6.65 and
47.9
±
6.51 mg, respectively; p< 0.05) (Figure 1C). In the second year of measurements,
the single-seed weight was statistically lower in all the accessions compared to the first
year, with the lowest values recorded once again in Mentana and Tengri (38.4
±
5.68 and
38.1
±
3.61 mg, respectively) (p< 0.05; Figure 1C). In the second location, Valleggia, the San
Pastore seed weight was statistically higher in the first year than in the second (45.5
±
2.97
vs. 37.7
±
2.67 mg) (p< 0.05; Figure 2C). Before harvesting, the heights of ten representative
plants were measured for each plot in both locations: in Varchignoli the tallest accessions
were 7 Grani, Solibam and Mentana, whereas the lowest values were recorded with the
traditional Giorgione variety (p< 0.05; Figure 1D); in Valleggia, the height of the San
Pastore wheat was statistically the same in 2020 and 2021: 87.6
±
4.60 vs. 93.3
±
4.36 cm,
respectively (Figure 2D).
Agronomy 2022, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 6 of 16
previously used as a vegetable garden. The only wheat variety grown here, San Pastore,
showed a constant yield of more than 4 t/ha for both years (Figure 2A). In line with the
yield, a high number of ears per m
2
was recorded for San Pastore: on average, there were
411 in the first year and 350 in the second (p < 0.05; Figure 2B). The number of ears per m
2
was lower in the varieties grown in Varchignoli: in Mentana, 229 ears were counted in the
first year and 171 in the second year. The other varieties grown here showed fewer ears
than Mentana (p < 0.05; Figure 1B). Another parameter measured for all the accessions in
the two locations was the single-seed weight: in Varchignoli, in the 7 Grani mix and in the
evolutionary population of Solibam the values reached 61 mg in the first year, whereas in
the same year they were statistically lower in Mentana and Tengri (46.6 ± 6.65 and 47.9 ±
6.51 mg, respectively; p < 0.05) (Figure 1C). In the second year of measurements, the single-
seed weight was statistically lower in all the accessions compared to the first year, with
the lowest values recorded once again in Mentana and Tengri (38.4 ± 5.68 and 38.1 ± 3.61
mg, respectively) (p < 0.05; Figure 1C). In the second location, Valleggia, the San Pastore
seed weight was statistically higher in the first year than in the second (45.5 ± 2.97 vs. 37.7
± 2.67 mg) (p < 0.05; Figure 2C). Before harvesting, the heights of ten representative plants
were measured for each plot in both locations: in Varchignoli the tallest accessions were 7
Grani, Solibam and Mentana, whereas the lowest values were recorded with the tradi-
tional Giorgione variety (p < 0.05; Figure 1D); in Valleggia, the height of the San Pastore
wheat was statistically the same in 2020 and 2021: 87.6 ± 4.60 vs. 93.3 ± 4.36 cm, respec-
tively (Figure 2D).
Figure 1. The measured yield (A), n°ears/m
2
(B), single-seed weight (C) and plant height (D) of five
wheat varieties in Varchignoli. For each parameter measured, different letters indicate statistically
significant differences (Tukey’s test, p < 0.05).
Figure 1.
The measured yield (
A
), n
ears/m
2
(
B
), single-seed weight (
C
) and plant height (
D
) of five
wheat varieties in Varchignoli. For each parameter measured, different letters indicate statistically
significant differences (Tukey’s test, p< 0.05).
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 7 of 16
Agronomy 2022, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 7 of 16
Figure 2. The measured yield (A), n°ears/m
2
(B), single-seed weight (C) and plant height (D) of San
Pastore wheat in Valleggia. For each parameter measured, different letters indicate statistically sig-
nificant differences (t-test, p < 0.05).
3.2. Comparison of Rye Varieties over Two Years: Agronomic Aspects
In wheat and also in rye, the experimentation was organised in randomised blocks.
Three accessions of rye were grown in Varchignoli, and only Alpina rye was grown in
Valleggia. This species seemed to perform well in marginal areas and unfavourable cli-
mates and did not require operations during the growing season. The agronomic param-
eters measured were the same as those previously described; regarding the estimated
yield, no significant differences were observed in Varchignoli among the three accessions
analysed, where the highest values were recorded in Tradizionale Piemonte (3.14 ± 0.89
t/ha in 2020 and 3.39 ± 0.73 t/ha in 2021) (p < 0.05; Figure 3A). Despite this, these values
were very low when compared with the Alpina rye grown in the second location, Valleg-
gia: the yield recorded here was higher than 8 t/ha in both years (p < 0.05; Figure 4A). In
line with the yield, a higher number of ears per m
2
was recorded in the experimental field
of Valleggia compared to Varchignoli: Alpina rye had on average 401 ears in the first year
and 395 in the second (p < 0.05; Figure 4B), whereas in Varchignoli there were about 200
ears/m
2
for SKTP50 and Stanko, and about 300 for Tradizionale Piemonte (p < 0.05; Figure
3B). Furthermore, in Varchignoli, the single-seed weight in the three accessions analysed
was significantly higher in 2020 compared to 2021 (on average 57 mg vs. 40 mg, respec-
tively) (p < 0.05; Figure 3C). The same trend was recorded in Valleggia: there was a higher
average weight of 51 mg during the first year and 36 mg in the second (p < 0.05; Figure
4C). Finally, the rye height was measured before harvesting: In Varchignoli, no significant
differences were found between varieties in the two years of study and the plant height
was always above 100 cm (Figure 3D). In Valleggia, the average height of Alpina rye was
over 130 cm in both years (Figure 4D).
Figure 2.
The measured yield (
A
), n
ears/m
2
(
B
), single-seed weight (
C
) and plant height (
D
) of
San Pastore wheat in Valleggia. For each parameter measured, different letters indicate statistically
significant differences (t-test, p< 0.05).
3.2. Comparison of Rye Varieties over Two Years: Agronomic Aspects
In wheat and also in rye, the experimentation was organised in randomised blocks.
Three accessions of rye were grown in Varchignoli, and only Alpina rye was grown in
Valleggia. This species seemed to perform well in marginal areas and unfavourable climates
and did not require operations during the growing season. The agronomic parameters
measured were the same as those previously described; regarding the estimated yield, no
significant differences were observed in Varchignoli among the three accessions analysed,
where the highest values were recorded in Tradizionale Piemonte (3.14
±
0.89 t/ha in 2020
and 3.39
±
0.73 t/ha in 2021) (p< 0.05; Figure 3A). Despite this, these values were very
low when compared with the Alpina rye grown in the second location, Valleggia: the yield
recorded here was higher than 8 t/ha in both years (p< 0.05; Figure 4A). In line with the
yield, a higher number of ears per m
2
was recorded in the experimental field of Valleggia
compared to Varchignoli: Alpina rye had on average 401 ears in the first year and 395
in the second (p< 0.05; Figure 4B), whereas in Varchignoli there were about 200 ears/m
2
for SKTP50 and Stanko, and about 300 for Tradizionale Piemonte (p< 0.05; Figure 3B).
Furthermore, in Varchignoli, the single-seed weight in the three accessions analysed was
significantly higher in 2020 compared to 2021 (on average 57 mg vs. 40 mg, respectively)
(p< 0.05; Figure 3C). The same trend was recorded in Valleggia: there was a higher average
weight of 51 mg during the first year and 36 mg in the second (p< 0.05; Figure 4C). Finally,
the rye height was measured before harvesting: In Varchignoli, no significant differences
were found between varieties in the two years of study and the plant height was always
above 100 cm (Figure 3D). In Valleggia, the average height of Alpina rye was over 130 cm
in both years (Figure 4D).
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 8 of 16
Agronomy 2022, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 8 of 16
Figure 3. The measured yield (A), n°ears/m
2
(B), single-seed weight (C) and plant height (D) of three
rye varieties in Varchignoli. For each parameter measured, different letters indicate statistically sig-
nificant differences (Tukey’s test, p < 0.05).
Figure 4. The measured yield (A), n°ears/m
2
(B), single-seed weight (C) and plant height (D) of
Alpina rye in Valleggia (t-test, p < 0.05).
Figure 3.
The measured yield (
A
), n
ears/m
2
(
B
), single-seed weight (
C
) and plant height (
D
) of
three rye varieties in Varchignoli. For each parameter measured, different letters indicate statistically
significant differences (Tukey’s test, p< 0.05).
Agronomy 2022, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 8 of 16
Figure 3. The measured yield (A), n°ears/m
2
(B), single-seed weight (C) and plant height (D) of three
rye varieties in Varchignoli. For each parameter measured, different letters indicate statistically sig-
nificant differences (Tukey’s test, p < 0.05).
Figure 4. The measured yield (A), n°ears/m
2
(B), single-seed weight (C) and plant height (D) of
Alpina rye in Valleggia (t-test, p < 0.05).
Figure 4.
The measured yield (
A
), n
ears/m
2
(
B
), single-seed weight (
C
) and plant height (
D
) of
Alpina rye in Valleggia (t-test, p< 0.05).
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 9 of 16
3.3. Compositional Analyses of Flours
Compositional analyses were carried out to determine the qualitative characteristics of
the different varieties of wheat and rye. In particular, we detected the content of ash, crude
fibre, crude fat, crude protein and starch content (Tables 2and 3). These characteristics are
necessary for the evaluation of the suitability of varieties for the bread-baking process. As
reported in Table 2, the highest values of ash were measured in 7 Grani (2.07
±
0.05%) and
the lowest in Giorgione and Tengri (1.58
±
0.06 and 1.53
±
0.07%, respectively; p< 0.05).
The content of crude fibre was significantly higher in Giorgione and San Pastore compared
to the other varieties (p< 0.05), whereas the crude fat reached its maximum value in the
traditional variety Mentana compared to other cultivars (1.70
±
0.03%; p< 0.05). However,
Mentana registered the minimum value of crude protein among the accessions under
evaluation (10.93
±
0.29%; p< 0.05); this parameter was statistically higher in Solibam
and San Pastore compared to other varieties (14.69
±
0.12 and 14.14
±
0.50%, respectively;
p< 0.05). Finally, there were no significant differences in the starch content between the
different varieties. The highest values of ash and crude protein were recorded in Alpina
rye, whereas the crude fat was significantly higher in the SKTP50 mixture. No significant
differences among varieties were found for the crude fibre and starch content.
Table 2.
Compositional analyses performed on wheat flours. The nutrient composition is expressed
on a dry matter (DM) basis.
Variety Ash (%) Crude Fibre (%) Crude Fat (%) Crude Protein (%) Starch (%)
7G 2.07 ±0.05 a1.95 ±0.01 b1.06 ±0.04 bc 13.66 ±0.26 b55.22 ±5.02 a
GG 1.58 ±0.06 c2.90 ±0.00 a1.49 ±0.31 ab 12.35 ±0.31 c57.96 ±4.11 a
MT 1.84 ±0.06 b1.93 ±0.06 b1.70 ±0.03 a10.93 ±0.29 d53.12 ±2.86 a
SB 1.93 ±0.06 ab 1.75 ±0.09 b1.23 ±0.26 abc 14.69 ±0.12 a50.83 ±4.66 a
TG 1.53 ±0.07 c1.99 ±0.05 b1.11 ±0.05 bc 12.21 ±0.19 c51.84 ±2.66 a
SP 1.86 ±0.13 ab 3.03 ±0.20 a0.97 ±0.15 c14.14 ±0.50 ab 55.15 ±1.38 a
For each parameter measured, different letters indicate statistically significant differences (Tukey’s test, p< 0.05).
Table 3.
Compositional analyses performed on rye flours. The nutrient composition is expressed on
a dry matter (DM) basis.
Variety Ash (%) Crude Fibre (%) Crude Fat (%) Crude Protein (%) Starch (%)
SKTP50 1.69 ±0.04 b1.59 ±0.27 a1.40 ±0.04 a11.13 ±0.45 b49.38 ±1.74 a
SK 1.77 ±0.05 ab 1.81 ±0.25 a0.71 ±0.29 b11.05 ±0.38 b51.52 ±3.41 a
TP 1.67 ±0.07 b1.76 ±0.18 a1.09 ±0.22 ab 11.50 ±0.27 b47.33 ±1.73 a
AP 1.87 ±0.03 a1.48 ±0.12 a0.90 ±0.02 b12.40 ±0.09 a47.49 ±4.65 a
For each parameter measured, different letters indicate statistically significant differences (Tukey’s test, p< 0.05).
3.4. Dough and Bread Characteristics
The farinograph test provides information on flour behaviour during mixing, i.e., the
first step of the bread-making process. Results are reported in Table 4. Firstly, the water
absorption—which is the amount of water added to the flour to make dough with optimal
consistency (i.e., 500 Farinograph Units)—was calculated. Adding rye to wheat led to
a decrease in this index, likely due to the effect of gluten dilution. In addition to water
absorption, this test measures the consistency of the dough during mixing. From the charts
(data not shown), the dough development time (which is the time required to reach the
maximum consistency) and the stability time (which is the time by which the dough keeps
its consistency) were calculated. Upon the addition of rye, the dough development time
significantly decreased (p< 0.05). This was, again, probably due to wheat gluten dilution,
although the rye did not negatively affect the dough stability, indicating a similar dough
resistance to mechanical stress as in wheat dough.
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 10 of 16
Table 4.
Characterisation of dough and bread prepared from wheat flour and rye-wheat blend (30:70).
Wheat 30% Rye
Dough
Water absorption (g/100g) 65.5 ±0.4 62.3 ±1.2 **
Dough development time (min) 2.7 ±0.2 2.2 ±0.3 ***
Stability time (min) 2.5 ±0.1 2.5 ±0.4
Bread
Weight (g) 77.0 ±1.1 77.0 ±0.6
Volume (mL) 176.0 ±8.1 165.0 ±9.8
Specific volume (mL/g) 2.3 ±0.1 2.1 ±0.1
Moisture content (%) 42.1 ±0.1 41.9 ±1.2
Water activity 0.9 ±0.1 0.9 ±0.1
Firmness (N) 29.9 ±2.8 26.5 ±6.8
Crust colour
Luminosity 52.4 ±4.9 50.8 ±1.8
Yellowness 13.4 ±1.1 13.0 ±0.9
Redness 22.5 ±1.3 21.5 ±2.0
Crumb colour
Luminosity 53.6 ±2.2 53.4 ±1.3
Yellowness 6.3 ±0.2 5.7 ±0.1 *
Redness 17.1 ±0.5 16.4 ±0.3 *
Asterisk indicates significant differences between the samples (t-test) at p< 0.05 (*); p< 0.01 (**) and p< 0.001 (***).
Figure 5reports dough behaviour during leavening. In particular, Figure 5A reports
dough development during 3 h of leavening. Rye positively affected dough development:
the dough rose faster and higher when rye was added to wheat. Rye-enriched dough
maintained the maximum height till the end of the test, whereas a slight drop (by 17%) of
height occurred in wheat dough. Figure 5B showed CO
2
production: during leavening,
the yeast produces gas which is kept—until a time known as “porosity time”—inside the
gluten matrix. The release of gas outside the matrix is responsible for the porous structure
of the bread crumb; however, an excessive release of gas might cause dough collapse.
Rye-enriched dough produced a higher amount of total gas (1252 vs. 1086 mL), whereas
gas release occurred 30 min earlier in this sample compared to wheat dough. Moreover,
rye-enriched dough was able to retain less gas until the end of the test: indeed, the retention
coefficient was 91.8% and 94.4% for rye-based and wheat doughs, respectively. Wheat
substitution with rye at a 30% level did not significantly affect bread features: volume
and crumb firmness were similar, as well as crumb moisture. However, rye affected the
colour of the crumb, which appeared less yellow and less red than wheat bread (Table 4
and Figure 6).
Agronomy 2022, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 11 of 16
Figure 5. Dough development (A) and gas production (B) of doughs prepared from wheat flour
(black line) and rye-wheat blend (30:70) (grey line). In panel B, solid lines refer to produced gas,
whereas dotted lines refer to retained gas in the dough.
Figure 6. Bread and slices of bread prepared from wheat flour (A) and rye-wheat blend (30:70) (B).
3.5. Mycotoxin Analysis
Among the EU-regulated mycotoxins, only ergotoxins were measurable in the rye
samples (124 µg/kg). All other EU-regulated toxin classes were below the LOD of the
method (see Table 5 for the LOD values for each compound). The ergotoxin contamination
was below the EU threshold for rye flour. Even the more restrictive application of the
novel EU regulation on ergotoxin contamination, which foresees a further decrease of the
limit from 500 to 250 µg/kg, confirms the safety of the produced flour. Other detected
mycotoxins included alternariol with an average contamination of 191 µg/kg and com-
pounds of the enniatin class, whose major component detected was enniatin B with and
average content of 782 µg/kg. Other Fusarium toxins were not detected. Contamination
levels found in the flour are in agreement with the values found in Italy on rye for ergo-
toxins [29], as well as for enniatins in Danish rye [30] and Alternaria toxins in Slovenian
rye [31]. Overall, the contamination of the rye flour from mycotoxins (Table 5) was limited
and below the safety threshold. This result suggests that the flour is adequate for human
consumption.
Figure 5.
Dough development (
A
) and gas production (
B
) of doughs prepared from wheat flour
(black line) and rye-wheat blend (30:70) (grey line). In panel B, solid lines refer to produced gas,
whereas dotted lines refer to retained gas in the dough.
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 11 of 16
Agronomy 2022, 12, x FOR PEER REVIEW 11 of 16
Figure 5. Dough development (A) and gas production (B) of doughs prepared from wheat flour
(black line) and rye-wheat blend (30:70) (grey line). In panel B, solid lines refer to produced gas,
whereas dotted lines refer to retained gas in the dough.
Figure 6. Bread and slices of bread prepared from wheat flour (A) and rye-wheat blend (30:70) (B).
3.5. Mycotoxin Analysis
Among the EU-regulated mycotoxins, only ergotoxins were measurable in the rye
samples (124 µg/kg). All other EU-regulated toxin classes were below the LOD of the
method (see Table 5 for the LOD values for each compound). The ergotoxin contamination
was below the EU threshold for rye flour. Even the more restrictive application of the
novel EU regulation on ergotoxin contamination, which foresees a further decrease of the
limit from 500 to 250 µg/kg, confirms the safety of the produced flour. Other detected
mycotoxins included alternariol with an average contamination of 191 µg/kg and com-
pounds of the enniatin class, whose major component detected was enniatin B with and
average content of 782 µg/kg. Other Fusarium toxins were not detected. Contamination
levels found in the flour are in agreement with the values found in Italy on rye for ergo-
toxins [29], as well as for enniatins in Danish rye [30] and Alternaria toxins in Slovenian
rye [31]. Overall, the contamination of the rye flour from mycotoxins (Table 5) was limited
and below the safety threshold. This result suggests that the flour is adequate for human
consumption.
Figure 6. Bread and slices of bread prepared from wheat flour (A) and rye-wheat blend (30:70) (B).
3.5. Mycotoxin Analysis
Among the EU-regulated mycotoxins, only ergotoxins were measurable in the rye
samples (124
µ
g/kg). All other EU-regulated toxin classes were below the LOD of the
method (see Table 5for the LOD values for each compound). The ergotoxin contamination
was below the EU threshold for rye flour. Even the more restrictive application of the novel
EU regulation on ergotoxin contamination, which foresees a further decrease of the limit
from 500 to 250
µ
g/kg, confirms the safety of the produced flour. Other detected mycotoxins
included alternariol with an average contamination of 191
µ
g/kg and compounds of the
enniatin class, whose major component detected was enniatin B with and average content
of 782
µ
g/kg. Other Fusarium toxins were not detected. Contamination levels found in the
flour are in agreement with the values found in Italy on rye for ergotoxins [
29
], as well as
for enniatins in Danish rye [
30
] and Alternaria toxins in Slovenian rye [
31
]. Overall, the
contamination of the rye flour from mycotoxins (Table 5) was limited and below the safety
threshold. This result suggests that the flour is adequate for human consumption.
Table 5.
Mycotoxin average quantity and standard deviation calculated on three samples of rye flour
used for bread production. On the third column the LODs of the method are indicated.
Mycotoxin Average Quantity ±Dev Std (µg/kg) * LOD (µg/kg)
15-Acetoxyscirpenol <LOD 10
15-Acetyl-Deoxynivalenol <LOD 50
3-Acetyl-Deoxynivalenol <LOD 50
Aflatoxin B1 <LOD 0.5
Aflatoxin B2 <LOD 1
Aflatoxin G1 <LOD 1
Aflatoxin G2 <LOD 1
Agroclavin <LOQ (1) 0.3
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 12 of 16
Table 5. Cont.
Mycotoxin Average Quantity ±Dev Std (µg/kg) * LOD (µg/kg)
alpha-Ergocryptine 20 ±9 1
alpha-Ergocryptinine 2 ±2 2
alpha-Zearalenol <LOD 3
Alternariol 191 ±75 10
Beauvericin <LOQ (3) 1
beta-Zearalenol <LOD 6
Deoxynivalenol <LOD 20
Deoxynivalenol-3-Glucoside <LOD 5
Diacetoxyscirpenol <LOD 3
Dihydrolysergol <LOD 15
Elymoclavin <LOD 1
Enniatin A 14 ±9 1
Enniatin A1 65 ±37 1
Enniatin B 782 ±568 1
Enniatin B1 205 ±115 1
Ergine <LOD 1
Ergocornine 22 ±8 1
Ergocorninine 9 ±3 1
Ergocristine 23 ±4 1
Ergocristinine 6 ±3 1
Ergometrine 9 ±1 1
Ergometrinine 3 ±0 1
Ergosine 24 ±5 1
Ergotamine 5 ±1 1
Fumonisin B1 <LOD 10
Fumonisin B2 <LOD 10
Fumonisin B3 <LOD 10
Fusarenon X <LOD 30
Gliotoxin <LOD 20
HT-2 Toxin <LOD 15
Moniliformin 69 ±52 10
Mycophenolic acid <LOD 20
Neosolaniol <LOD 1
Nivalenol <LOD 20
Ochratoxin A <LOD 0.5
Ochratoxin B <LOD 0.5
Patulin <LOD 75
Penicillanic acid <LOD 7.5
Roquefortine C <LOD 2
Sterigmatocystin <LOD 0.3
T-2 Toxin <LOD 10
T-2 Triol <LOD 10
T-2 Tetraol <LOD 100
Zearalanon <LOD 0.5
Zearalenon <LOD 5
* In parenthesis, the LOQ value for the specific mycotoxin.
4. Discussion
After the Second World War, the advent of mechanised agricultural practices and the
use of more productive hybrids led to a gradual disappearance of local varieties. Landraces
are one of the most threatened components of agrobiodiversity worldwide, facing the
risk of genetic erosion [
15
]. Despite their progressive abandonment, cereal landraces still
continue to be important in agricultural production, mainly in marginal lands and mountain
areas where modern hybrids lose their competitive advantage [
18
]: their adaptability to
unfavourable conditions contributes to yield stability [
19
] and to abiotic and biotic stress
tolerance [20,21,32].
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 13 of 16
The aim of the present work was to provide data to support the reintroduction of the
cultivation of rye and wheat in the Antrona Valley (Piedmont) and to resume the historic
rye bread production chain that was abandoned several years ago. In this context, we
set up a two-year randomised block experiment in two different locations, Varchignoli
(584 a.s.l) and Valleggia (750 a.s.l). Different traditional and modern varieties of wheat and
rye, mixtures and evolutionary populations were compared, and the most suitable for the
cultivation in the terraced environment of the Antrona Valley were selected.
Generally, in a breeding program, the comparison between different accessions is
carried out in experimental fields under controlled and standard conditions. The advan-
tage of this experimentation is given by the fact that the varieties were compared in the
environment in which their future cultivation will take place. This allowed us to evaluate
the most suitable phenotypes for the environment of interest and the cultivation techniques
that will be used.
Regarding wheat, five accessions were compared in Varchignoli and the traditional
variety Mentana was found to be the most productive in the first year of experimentation
(Figure 1A). Interestingly, the evolutionary population of Solibam exhibited intermediate
but stable yields in the two years: this stability could be due to the high genetic variability
present within the population, which made it more adaptable to environmental changes.
Research on evolutionary populations (and also mixtures) has spanned several decades,
from the first paper by Harlan and Martini (1929) to recent years [
33
35
]. Several works
have demonstrated that natural selection in evolutionary populations and mixtures is
effective in improving yield [
35
37
], yield stability [
38
40
] and host plant resistance to
pathogens [
41
43
]. It was also reported that the potential of evolutionary populations is
higher than that of mixtures [44].
Comparing the yields recorded in Varchignoli with the national average wheat yield
of 2021 (5.37 t/ha), all the varieties analysed in this study had lower yields. In fact, the
estimated yields were lower than 1 t/ha. The factor that seemed to have the greatest
influence on the low yield was the low number of ears/m
2
(Figure 1B). These results
highlighted that the environment of the Antrona Valley would not seem particularly
suitable for the cultivation of wheat, which is why historically it had never been cultivated
in this area. A different situation occurred in Valleggia, where the yield of San Pastore
wheat was around 4–5 t/ha in both years (Figure 2A) thanks to a greater number of ears/m
2
(Figure 2B). The higher yield recorded in Valleggia was probably due to the excellent soil
and exposure conditions. This soil was previously treated as a vegetable garden and,
therefore, it had a low amount of skeletons and weeds, as well as good fertility.
Unlike wheat, rye proved to be a very suitable crop for cultivation in the marginal
environments of the Valley thanks to its hardiness and plasticity. The varieties compared
in Valleggia were Stanko, Tradizionale Piemonte and the SKTP50 mix. Observing the
estimated yield values, it seemed that Tradizionale Piemonte rye had a higher yield than
SK and SKTP50 (Figure 3A). This result was supported by the number of ears per m
2
,
which was significantly higher for TP compared to the others (Figure 3B). However, the
three varieties had good yields when compared to the national average yield of rye in 2021,
3.28 t/ha. The yields estimated in our experimentation were slightly lower than this value,
except for Tradizionale Piemonte, but were considered good as they were obtained with a
low-input cultivation system in a marginal environment. Moreover, the statistical analysis
showed that the average seed weight of rye was significantly higher in the first year than in
the second (Figure 3C), but no significant differences in plant height were found between
the different varieties (Figure 3D). In Valleggia, the estimated yield did not show significant
differences between the first and second year (Figure 4A); however, these values were
considered very high and were close to the production potential of this crop. Production
potential means the maximum production level that the crop can reach in the absence of
stress, both biotic and abiotic [
45
]. Additionally, the other agronomic parameters measured
did not show significant differences in the two years of experimentation (Figure 4B–D).
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 14 of 16
We also carried out qualitative and nutritional analysis on the flour collected for
each variety or population. The results obtained from the compositional analyses showed
that the kernels of 7 Grains and Solibam had a significantly higher ash content than the
other wheat varieties (Table 2). This parameter is an important indicator of the content of
mineral salts, essential for yeast nutrition. In fact, a higher ash content favours leavening.
Additionally, the crude protein content is considered a key parameter for evaluating the
characteristics useful in breadmaking. Among the different varieties, San Pastore and
Solibam were those with the greatest bread-making aptitude. The same compositional
analyses conducted on rye revealed the superiority of Alpina rye for breadmaking, in
particular for the higher content of crude protein (Table 3).
Furthermore, we evaluated the dough development during 3 h of leavening, as re-
ported in Figure 5A: rye positively affected dough development and the dough rose faster
and higher when rye was added to wheat. The result might be due to the higher amylase
activity found in rye [
46
]: sugars derived from the starch hydrolysis operated by alpha-
amylase are a substrate for yeast growth, and thus, gas production and dough leavening.
Finally, the contamination of rye flour by mycotoxins was measured: the contamination
was limited and below the safety threshold (Table 5). This result suggests that the flour is
suitable for human consumption.
In conclusion, the positive results achieved in this project suggest that the reintroduc-
tion of rye and wheat in the Antrona Valley is possible and will allow the relaunch of small
food chains in this marginal environment, as well as in other mountain areas.
Supplementary Materials:
The following supporting information can be downloaded at: https:
//www.mdpi.com/article/10.3390/agronomy12071695/s1, Table S1: soil analysis of the experimental
fields in Varchignoli and Valleggia.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualisation, R.P. and I.D.N.; methodology, G.L.; software, M.P.; valida-
tion, F.C., E.C. and N.F.; formal analysis, A.B., M.D., L.R. and M.P.; investigation, F.C., N.F., M.G. and
L.C.; resources, R.P.; data curation, F.C.; writing—original draft preparation, F.C.; writing—review
and editing, A.M., M.P., L.R. and M.L.; visualisation, A.B. and M.D.; supervision, R.P.; project admin-
istration, R.P.; funding acquisition, R.P. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of
the manuscript.
Funding:
This research was funded by the Fondazione Cariplo. Grant: Coltivare Valore 2018, Progetto
SOCIAAALP (Reti Sociali per Agro Ambienti Alpini).
Data Availability Statement: Not applicable.
Acknowledgments:
We wish to thank the social cooperative “Il sogno” and the inhabitants of the
Antrona Valley for their help in the field during these years. Additionally, we would like to thank
Lesley Currah for her editing and suggestions.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
References
1.
Hammer, K.; Xhuveli, L.; Perrino, P. Estimating genetic erosion in landraces? two case studies. Genet. Resour. Crop Evol.
1996
,43,
329–336. [CrossRef]
2.
FAO. Agricultural Biodiversity. Background Paper 1. FAO/Netherlands Conference of Multifunctional Character of Agriculture
and Land. 1999. Available online: http://www.fao.org/mfcal/pdf/bp_1_agb.pdf (accessed on 1 May 2022).
3.
FAO. Building on Gender, Agrobiodiversity and Local Knowledge; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Rome,
Italy, 2004. Available online: http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5609e/y5609e00.htm (accessed on 1 May 2022).
4.
FAO. Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; Commission on Genetic Resources for
Food and Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Rome, Italy, 2010.
5.
Esquinas-Alcázar, J. Protecting crop genetic diversity for food security: Political, ethical and technical challenges. Nat. Rev. Genet.
2005,6, 946–953. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
6.
Jackson, L.; Pascual, U.; Hodgkin, T. Utilizing and conserving agrobiodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ.
2007,121, 196–210. [CrossRef]
7.
Giupponi, L.; Pilu, R.; Scarafoni, A.; Giorgi, A. Plant agro-biodiversity needs protection, study and promotion: Results of research
conducted in Lombardy region (Northern Italy). Biodivers. Conserv. 2020,29, 409–430. [CrossRef]
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 15 of 16
8.
Sangiorgio, S.; Colombo, F.; Ghidoli, M.; Giupponi, L.; Ferro, G.; Ferro, C.G.; Cassani, E.; Landoni, M.; Pilu, R. The Ancient
Varieties of Mountain Maize: The Inheritance of the Pointed Character and Its Effect on the Natural Drying Process. Agronomy
2021,11, 2295. [CrossRef]
9.
Jones, H.; Lister, D.L.; Bower, M.A.; Leigh, F.J.; Smith, L.M.; Jones, M.K. Approaches and constraints of using existing landrace
and extant plant material to understand agricultural spread in prehistory. Plant Genet. Resour. 2008,6, 98–112. [CrossRef]
10.
Zeven, A.C. Traditional maintenance breeding of landraces: 2 Practical and theoretical considerations on maintenance of variation
of landraces by farmers and gardeners. Euphytica 2002,123, 147–158. [CrossRef]
11.
Camacho Villa, T.C.; Maxted, N.; Scholten, M.; Ford-Lloyd, B. Defining and identifying crop landraces. Plant Genet. Res.
2005
,3,
373–384. [CrossRef]
12.
Aguiriano, E.; Ruiz, M.; Fité, R.; Carrillo, J.M. Analysis of genetic variability in a sample of the durum wheat (Triticum durum
Desf.) Spanish collection based on gliadin markers. Genet. Resour. Crop Evol. 2006,53, 1543–1552. [CrossRef]
13.
Teklu, Y.; Hammer, K.; Huang, X.Q.; Roder, M.S. Analysis of microsatellite diversity in Ethiopian tetraploid wheat landraces.
Genet. Resour. Crop Evol. 2005,53, 1115–1126. [CrossRef]
14. Brandolini, A. Maize introduction, evolution and diffusion in Italy. Maydica 2009,54, 233–242.
15.
de Carvalho, M.A.; Bebeli, P.J.; Bettencourt, E.; Costa, G.; Dias, S.; Dos Santos, T.M.; Slaski, J.J. Cereal landraces genetic resources
in worldwide GeneBanks. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 2013,33, 177–203. [CrossRef]
16.
Cantaluppi, E.; Manzi, S.; Egal, A.A.; Puglisi, D.; Cassani, E.; Toschi, I.; Cesari, V.T.; Landoni, M.; Scapin, A.; Pilu, S. Nutritional
and phenotypical characterization of two South African maize (Zea mays L.) varieties sampled in the Qwa-Qwa region. Maydica
2017,62, 1–10.
17.
Landoni, M.V.; Andrea, S.; Cassani, E.; Borlini, G.; Follador, A.R.V.; Giupponi, L.; Ghidoli, M.; Hejna, M.; Rossi, L.; Pilu, S.R.
Comparison among four maize varieties in conventional and low input cultivation. Maydica 2020,65, 1–13.
18.
Giupponi, L.; Leoni, V.; Colombo, F.; Cassani, E.; Hejna, M.; Rossi, L.; Pilu, R. Characterization of “Mais delle Fiorine” (Zea mays
L.) and nutritional, morphometric and genetic comparison with other maize landraces of Lombardy region (Northern Italy).
Genet. Resour. Crop Evol. 2021,68, 2075–2091. [CrossRef]
19.
Tesemma, T.; Tsegaye, S.; Belay, G.; Bechere, E.; Mitiku, D. Stability of performance of tetraploid wheat landraces in the Ethiopian
highland. Euphytica 1998,102, 301–308. [CrossRef]
20.
Pinheiro de Carvalho, M.A.A.; Slaski, J.J.; dos Santos, T.M.M.; Ganança, F.T.; Abreu, I.; Taylor, G.J.; Clemente Vieira, M.R.; Popova,
T.N.; Franco, E. Identification of aluminium resistant genotypes among Madeiran regional wheats. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal.
2003,34, 2973–2985. [CrossRef]
21.
Newton, A.C.; Akar, T.; Baresel, J.P.; Bebeli, P.J.; Bettencourt, E.; Bladenopoulos, K.V.; Czembor, J.H.; Fasoula, D.A.; Katsiotis, A.;
Koutis, K.; et al. Cereal landraces for sustainable agriculture. A review. Agron. Sust. Dev. 2010,30, 237–269. [CrossRef]
22.
Ceccarelli, S.; Grando, S. Decentralized-participatory plant breeding: An example of demand driven research. Euphytica
2007
,155,
349–360. [CrossRef]
23.
Mulac, D.; Hans-Ulrich, H. Cytotoxicity and Accumulation of Ergot Alkaloids in Human Primary Cells. Toxicology
2011
,282,
112–121. [CrossRef]
24.
AOAC. Official Methods of Analysis of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists: Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International,
21st ed.; AOAC: Washington, DC, USA, 2019.
25.
American Oil Chemistry Society (AOCS). Crude Fiber Analysis in Feeds by Filter Bag Technique. Official Methods and Recommended
Practices; YUMPU Publishing: Champaign, IL, USA, 2009.
26. ICC. Standard methods. International Association for Cereal Science and Technology; ICC: Vienna, Austria, 1992.
27.
American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC). Approved Methods of Analysis, 11th ed.; American Association of Cereal
Chemists (AACC): St. Paul, MN, USA, 2001.
28.
EN 17280:2019; Foodstuffs—Determination of Zearalenone and Trichothecenes Including Deoxynivalenol and Its Acetylated
Derivatives (3-Acetyl-deoxynivalenol and 15-Acetyl-deoxynivalenol), Nivalenol T-2 Toxin and HT-2 Toxin in Cereals and Cereal
Products by LC-MS/MS; European Committee for Standardization: Brussels, Belgium, 2019.
29.
Debegnach, F.; Patriarca, S.; Brera, C.; Gregori, E.; Sonego, E.; Moracci, G.; De Santis, B. Ergot alkaloids in wheat and rye derived
products in Italy. Foods 2019,8, 150. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
30.
Svingen, T.; Lund Hansen, N.; Taxvig, C.; Vinggaard, A.M.; Jensen, U.; Have Rasmussen, P. Enniatin B and beauvericin are
common in Danish cereals and show high hepatotoxicity on a high-content imaging platform. Environ. Toxicol.
2017
,32, 1658–1664.
[CrossRef] [PubMed]
31.
Babiˇc, J.; Tavˇcar-Kalcher, G.; Celar, F.A.; Kos, K.; Knific, T.; Jakovac-Strajn, B. Occurrence of Alternaria and other toxins in cereal
grains intended for animal feeding collected in Slovenia: A three-year study. Toxins 2021,13, 304. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
32.
Rossi, G.; Guzzon, F.; Bickler, C.; Cauzzi, P.; Di Martino, L.; Di Cecco, V.; Domina, G.; Gargano, D.; Vagge, I.; Orsenigo, S.; et al.
Seed germination under osmotic stress across different wild populations of mountain rye (Secale strictum (C.Presl) C.Presl). Plant
Biosyst. 2022,15, 345–352. [CrossRef]
33. Harlan, H.V.; Martini, M.L. A composite hybrid mixture. J. Amer. Soc. Agron. 1929,21, 487–490. [CrossRef]
34.
Goldringer, I.; Prouin, C.; Rousset, M.; Galic, N.; Bonnin, I. Rapid differentiation of experimental populations of wheat for heading
time in response to local climatic conditions. Ann. Bot. 2006,98, 805–817. [CrossRef]
Agronomy 2022,12, 1695 16 of 16
35.
Raggi, L.; Ciancaleoni, S.; Torricelli, R.; Terzi, V.; Ceccarelli, S.; Negri, V. Evolutionary breeding for sustainable agriculture:
Selection and multi-environment evaluation of barley populations and lines. Field Crop. Res. 2017,204, 76–88. [CrossRef]
36. Suneson, C.A. An evolutionary plant breeding method. Agron. J. 1956,48, 188–191. [CrossRef]
37.
Rasmusson, D.C.; Beard, B.H.; Johnson, F.K. Effect of natural selection on performance of a barley population. Crop Sci.
1967
,7,
543. [CrossRef]
38.
Allard, R.W. Relationship between genetic diversity and consistency of performance in different environments. Crop Sci.
1961
,1,
127–133. [CrossRef]
39.
Döring, T.F.; Annicchiarico, P.; Clarke, S.; Haigh, Z.; Jones, H.E.; Pearce, H.; Snape, J.; Zhang, J.; Wolfe, M.S. Comparative analysis
of performance and stability among composite cross populations, variety mixtures and pure lines of winter wheat in organic and
conventional cropping systems. Field Crop. Res. 2015,183, 235–245. [CrossRef]
40.
Reiss, E.R.; Drinkwater, L.E. Cultivar mixtures: A meta-analysis of the effect of intraspecific diversity on crop yield. Ecol. Appl.
2018,28, 62–77. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
41.
Wolfe, M.S.; Brändle, U.; Koller, B.; Limpert, E.; McDermott, J.M.; Müller, K.; Schaffner, D. Barley mildew in Europe: Population
biology and host resistance. Euphytica 1992,63, 125–139. [CrossRef]
42.
Smithson, J.B.; Lenné, J.M. Varietal mixtures: A viable strategy for sustainable productivity in subsistence agriculture. Ann. Appl.
Biol. 1996,128, 127–158. [CrossRef]
43.
Mundt, C.C. Use of multiline cultivars and cultivar mixtures for disease management. Annu. Rev. Phytopathol.
2002
,40, 381–410.
[CrossRef] [PubMed]
44. Patel, J.D.; Reinbergs, E.; Mather, D.E.; Choo, T.M.; Sterling, J.D. Natural selection in a double-haploid mixture and a composite
cross of barley. Crop Sci. 1987,27, 474–479. [CrossRef]
45.
Van Wart, J.; van Bussel, L.; Wolf, J.; Licker, R.; Grassini, P.; Nelson, A.; Boogaard, H.; Gerber, J.; Muller, N.; Claessens, L.; et al.
Use of agro-climatic zones to upscale simulated crop yield potential. Field Crop. Res. 2013,143, 44–55. [CrossRef]
46.
Bushuk, W. Rye: Production, Chemistry, and Technology, 2nd ed.; American Association of Cereal Chemists: St. Paul, MN, USA, 2001.
... Such an approach is based on the concept of neolocalism, defined as "a conscious effort by businesses to foster a sense of place based on attributes of their community" [3]. Research is interested in the reintroduction of traditional rye varieties that enable high yields in marginal and poor soils [4]. Landraces are autochthonous and genetically related varieties that indeed exhibit stable yields in low-input environments over time [5]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Rye is used in some applications in the food and beverage industry and for the preparation of functional foods. It is an interesting raw material in malting and brewing due to its characteristic contribution to the beer’s color, turbidity, foam and aroma. The aim of this work was to optimize the micro-malting process of a rye landrace. The response surface methodology (RSM) was applied to study the influence of three malting parameters (germination time, germination temperature and degree of steeping) on the quality traits of malted rye. Long germination times at high temperatures resulted in an increase in the extract and Kolbach index. The model for the apparent attenuation limit showed a particular pattern, whereby time and temperature inversely influenced the response. The lowest viscosities were determined in the worts produced from highly modified malts. Optimization of the variables under study was achieved by means of a desirability function and a genetic algorithm. The two methodologies provided similar results. The best combination of parameters to optimize the malting process on the rye landrace under study was achieved at 6 days, 12 °C and 44 g/100 g.
Article
Full-text available
The introduction of mechanized agricultural practices after the Second World War and the use of productive hybrids led to a gradual disappearance of local maize varieties. However, 13 landraces are still cultivated in NorthWestern Italy, in the Lombardy region; those that are cultivated in mountainous areas (roughly up to 1200 m in altitude) are often characterized by the pointed shape of their seeds (i.e., "Nero Spinoso", "Rostrato Rosso di Rovetta", "Spinato di Gandino" and "Scagliolo di Carenno") and the presence of pigments (i.e., "Nero Spinoso", "Rostrato Rosso di Rovetta"). The pointed shape of the seeds is an ancient characteristic of maize-ancestors, which negatively affects the yield by not allowing optimal "filling" of the ear. This study reports work on four different Italian varieties of pointed maize in order to assess the genetic bases of the "pointed char-acter" and to try to explain the reasons for this adaptation to the mountain environment. The data obtained by genetic analysis, seed air-drying modeling and thermographic camera observations demonstrated that the "pointed trait" is controlled by the same genes across the different varieties studied and suggested that this peculiar shape has been selected in mountainous areas because it promotes faster drying of the seed, with the presence of pigments implementing this effect.
Article
Full-text available
In recent years, the less-studied Alternaria mycotoxins have attracted increasing interest due to the lack of survey data and their ability to cause toxic effects in animals and humans. To fill the gap, the aim of this three-year survey was to investigate the presence and co-occurrence of Alternaria and other mycotoxins in a total of 433 cereal grain samples from Slovenian farms and agricultural cooperatives from 2014 to 2016. Using the multi-mycotoxin method, 14 mycotoxins were determined. In 53% of 433 analysed samples, contamination with at least one mycotoxin was found. Deoxynivalenol (DON) and tenuazonic acid (TeA) were present in 32% and 26% of cereal grain samples, respectively, whereas alternariol (AOH), tentoxin (TEN), alternariol monomethyl ether (AME), 3- and 15-acetyldeoxynivalenol (3- and 15-AcDON), and zearalenone (ZEN) were present in fewer than 15% of the samples. Ochratoxin A (OTA) was found in one rye sample, while diacetoxyscirpenol (DAS), HT-2 and T-2 toxin, and fumonisins B1 and B2 (FB1 and FB2) were not detected. The highest maximum and median concentrations of Alternaria toxins were determined in spelt in 2016 (TeA, 2277 µg/kg and 203 µg/kg, respectively), and those of Fusarium toxins in wheat in 2015 (DON, 4082 µg/kg and 387 µg/kg, respectively). The co-occurrence of two or more mycotoxins was found in 43% of the positive samples. The correlations between Alternaria toxins were very weak but statistically significant (r: 0.15-0.17, p: 0.0042-0.0165). A well-known correlation between Fusarium toxins DON and ZEN was weak and highly significant (r = 0.28, p < 0.0001).
Article
Full-text available
In this work we compared, using a randomized block design, four early maize (Zea mays L.) varieties: three tradi- tional varieties (Millo Corvo, Scagliolo, Agostanello) and one modern hybrid (LG 25.38) grown in conventional vs low input farming. We recorded different agronomic parameters and we performed bromatological and ICP-MS analyses, and also quanti ed carotenoids, anthocyanins and mycotoxins. The analysis of agronomic parameters showed a general trend of better yields from conventional farming. Bromatological analysis did not show signi - cant differences, we found more differences among varieties than between conventional and low input farming. Regarding minerals analysis, with the exception of the iron content, which was signi cantly higher from low input farming, we found high variability among the genotypes studied. The anthocyanins content, analyzed in the colored variety Millo Corvo, showed a statistically higher value in low imput farming. Finally, in both cultivation methods the level of fumonisins contamination was under the threshold limit. Taken together our data suggest that the effect of the genotypes was considerably higher than the effect of the cultivation method, hence it is the choice of the variety that will determine the nutritional value of the product harvested.
Article
Full-text available
The loss of agrobiodiversity is a topic of global impact. On a local scale, Lombardy, in the Alpine macro-Region, has lost more than 78% of its plant agrobiodiversity. Only four maize ( Zea mays L. subsp. mays ) landraces of Lombardy are registered in the European Register of Conservation Varieties. However, there are other maize landraces in Lombardy such as “Mais delle Fiorine”, which was characterized from an agronomic, morphometric, nutritional and genetic point of view in this research and then compared with the four other landraces already registered (“Spinato di Gandino”, “Rostrato Rosso di Rovetta”, “Scagliolo di Carenno” and “Nero Spinoso”). “Mais delle Fiorine” resulted richer in starch (81% ± 1.6) and zinc (35.8 ± 9.1 mg Kg ⁻¹ ) and lower in phosphorus (3256.7 ± 204.2 mg Kg ⁻¹ ). The kernels in the five landraces also differ in the mean shape that is obovate without beak. A genetic distinction between “Mais delle Fiorine” and the other varieties was observed, and in particular compared to “Nero Spinoso”, while “Scagliolo di Carenno” and “Rostrato Rosso di Rovetta” showed great similarities. As regards agronomical trials, “Mais delle Fiorine” can grow from the Po Valley (90 m a.s.l.) to the mountain environments of the Seriana Valley (also over 900 m a.s.l.) without significant differences in grain yield. In addition, this landrace would seem able to tolerate environments where there is a greater probability of water stress.
Article
Full-text available
The loss of plant agro-biodiversity is a global problem with repercussions on both humans and (agro-)ecosystems. This article presents the data of a census of the herbaceous landraces currently cultivated in Lombardy (Northern Italy), one of the most industrialized regions of Europe, and for which information was previously extremely limited. The census showed that 72 herbaceous landraces are cultivated (conserved on farms) in Lombardy yet most of them are threatened since they are cultivated by a small number of farmers, mostly hobbyists. Only 11% have been the subject of scientific studies while 12.5% are protected since they are registered in the European Register of Conservation Varieties. Lombardy has lost about 78% of its landraces cultivated over the last 70–80 years. The nutritional characteristics of four little-known maize landraces of the Lombardy region recently used for the creation of niche food chains were also analyzed. They have a higher content of protein (about 12.34%) and phytic acid (about 1.35%), compared to a hybrid maize (B73/Mo17), while they are slightly poorer in starch (about 77.85%), Mg and Zn. Some of these landraces, those with coloured kernels due to the high concentration of polyphenols, have high antioxidant activity which makes them interesting for the production of nutraceutical foods. 2D-electrophoretic protein profiles highlighted that the four maize landraces are different one from another. Finally, some actions and tools are suggested to favour the in situ conservation of plant agro-biodiversity.
Article
Full-text available
Genus Claviceps is a plant pathogen able to produce a group of toxins, ergot alkaloids (EAs), whose effects have been known since the Middle Ages (ergotism). Claviceps purpurea is the most important representative specie, known to infect more than 400 monocotyledonous plants including economically important cereal grains (e.g., rye, wheat, triticale). EAs are not regulated as such. Maximum limits are in the pipeline of the EU Commission while at present ergot sclerotia content is set by the Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 in unprocessed cereals (0.05% as a maximum). This study aimed to investigate the presence of the six principal EAs (ergometrine, ergosine, ergocornine, α-ergocryptine, ergotamine and ergocristine) and their relative epimers (-inine forms) in rye- and wheat-based products. Of the samples, 85% resulted positive for at least one of the EAs. Wheat bread was the product with the highest number of positivity (56%), followed by wheat flour (26%). Rye and wheat bread samples showed the highest values when the sum of the EAs was considered, and durum wheat bread was the more contaminated sample (1142.6 μg/kg). These results suggest that ongoing monitoring of EAs in food products is critical until maximum limits are set.
Article
Full-text available
Zea mays L represents one of the main source of energy in the diet in many African countries, especially in the sub-Saharan regions. White maize varieties, characterized by the lack of carotenoids, are usually widely preferred in Africa for human consumption, and this contributes to the occurrence of Vitamin A deficiency; yellow varieties, often derived from commercial hybrids, are usually destined for animal feeding. In this study we characterized from the phenotypical and nutritional points of view one white and one yellow South African landrace maize cultivar obtained directly from the farmers in the rural region of Qwa-Qwa (Free State Province). Calorific value, oil, protein, starch, minerals, flavonoids and carotenoids content were determined, together with free and phytic phosphorus (P). Both of the varieties showed lower protein and Fe content in comparison to the ones used as control, and the yellow one also had a low content of Zn. The white variety was characterized by a higher free P content but also by a very low level of carotenoids. Our data show that there are no nutritional reasons to prefer the white variety for human consumption, with the exception of the large size of the seeds, which make them particularly adapted for milling; hence the nutritional value of these varieties, and in particular of the white one, should be improved (pro-tein, Fe and carotenoids), contributing in this way to tackle the problem of malnutrition in South African rural areas. © 2017, Consiglio per la Ricercame la sperimentazione in Agrcoltura. All rights reserved.
Article
Full-text available
Varieties specifically bred for organic and low-input agriculture are presently lacking. A strategy to develop them is evolutionary breeding that relies on a combination of natural and artificial selection. This study investigated the ability of an evolutionary breeding program, carried out over 24 years, to select barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) heterogeneous populations and lines characterized by high grain yield and yield stability across different environments under organic and low-input conditions. A Composite Cross population (named AUT DBA) was initially developed by crossing Parental Populations highly productive under low-input conditions in Central Italy and diverse for several morpho-phenological traits. The AUT DBA was then multiplied for nine years under a low-input management system without any artificial selection.
Article
The selection of resilient cultivars could help stem the losses in forage production due to a changing climate. Secale strictum is a wild grass with interesting potential as a forage crop. We studied the germination requirements of six wild S. strictum populations, representative of the whole species distribution range in Italy and occurring under different osmotic conditions (0 MPa, -0.8 MPa, -1.0 MPa, -1.2 MPa, -1.4 MPa and -1.6 MPa). Our aim was to find beneficial seed and germination traits for the possible use of this species as a crop. Different accessions of domesticated Secale cereale and Triticosecale were used as comparison. Some populations of S. strictum were drought tolerant at germination level (final germination > 25% at -1.6 MPa). A great variability was observed among wild populations in traits that currently limit the cultivation of the species as a forage crop (seed size, germinability) and that could improve its usage, especially in arid areas (water stress tolerance, fast germination). A correlation exists between the germination rates of wild populations and the seasonality of the rainfall at their natural growing sites. These results underline the importance of choosing appropriate source lineages when selecting S. strictum populations for crop development.
Article
Extensive research has shown that greater plant community diversity leads to higher levels of productivity and other ecosystem services, and such increased diversity has been suggested as a way to improve yield and agricultural sustainability. Increasing intraspecific diversity with cultivar mixtures is one way to increase diversity in agricultural systems. We examined the relationship between intraspecific diversity and yield in cultivar mixtures using a meta-analysis of 91 studies and >3600 observations. Additionally, we investigated how environmental and management factors might influence this relationship, and if the yield stability of cultivar mixtures differed from that of monocultures. We found that the yield increased by 2.2% overall in cultivar mixtures relative to their monoculture components. Mixtures with more cultivars and those with more functional trait diversity showed higher relative yields. Under biotic stressors, such as disease pressure, and abiotic stressors, such as low levels of soil organic matter and nutrient availability, this diversity effect was stronger, resulting in higher relative yields. Finally, cultivar mixtures generally showed higher yield stability compared to monocultures, especially in response to annual weather variability at a site over time. This practice of mixing cultivars can be integrated into intensified cropping systems where species monocultures dominate, as well as in smallholder cropping systems where low-cost improvements are in demand. Overall, these results suggest that cultivar mixtures are a viable strategy to increase diversity in agroecosystems, promoting increased yield and yield stability, with minimal environmental impact. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.