Conventional farming methods are damaging the planet, and it is essential for us to promote varieties and techniques that work with nature, not against it.
For instance, many modern wheat varieties have a hugely negative impact on the environment – and on human health. Modern wheat varieties are dwarf varieties, which means they are not very competitive against weeds, making them reliant on the use of herbicides. Although they produce high yields, they require large amounts of synthetic fertilizers. The main principle of modern agriculture is to stress the environment to adapt it to modern wheat varieties.
In contrast, ancient wheat varieties can easily be implemented in organic agriculture systems, working in harmony with the environment and the ecological balances. Thanks to their height (they can grow up to 180 cm tall), they are competitive towards weeds and don’t require intensive fertilizer use. They have a high genetic variability and are an important source of biodiversity, helping to support the health of the wider ecosystem.
Farming in the face of climate change
Crucially, modern cultivars are less resilient to pests, disease, and environmental stresses. These characteristics are essential for the future of sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change. Because ancient wheat landraces have a rich and complex ancestry, they have adapted in response to many diverse stresses. This makes them a key resource for the development of future crops .
A conference to discuss solutions
The good news is that scientists around the world are already recognizing these problems, and beginning to work on solutions.
In June, a group of scientists from around the world will gather in Bologna for the ‘1st International Conference of Wheat Landraces for Healthy Food Systems’. There, they will discuss the topics of landraces, including modern populations, ancient and heritage wheat with a focus on health and nutrition.
These scientists have recognized the many problems that many modern wheat varieties are causing. The conference will provide a space to present and discuss alternatives to modern wheat, current industrialized farming systems and high speed, high volume food processing models.
The event will take place on 13-15 June in Bologna, Italy. The conference is organised by IFOAM – Organics International, Kamut International ltd. and Kamut Enterprises of Europe bvba, and Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna.
Source: Press release IFOAM – Organics International, 22.04.2018