In 1997, Genetic Heritage Ireland (GHI), in conjunction with the Irish Seed Savers Association (ISSA), funded by the Department of Agriculture, initiated The Irish Cereal Varieties Project to restore Irish cereal varieties to the state and to promote their conservation on-farm and ex situ. The 5-phase project, to date, has been successful in acquiring seed from many named Irish varieties and also some un-named collections which may prove to be landrace material.
Genebanks outside Ireland were queried as to whether they held collections of Irish cereal varieties and whether enough material existed for an adequate sample to be obtained. Cereal varieties and landraces grown within the state were sourced using personal contact, questionnaires and investigation of archival material held by the Archaeology Department in University College Dublin.
A total of thirty-five genebanks worldwide, predominantly European, were contacted regarding Irish cereal varieties in their possession and thirty-two accessions were obtained. As many genebanks can only supply limited numbers of seeds, these had to be multiplied prior to conservation and distribution. Collections were grown out using the Department of Agriculture farm at the National Crop Variety Testing Centre, Co. Dublin and a suitable grower within the Irish Seed Savers network (Mr. M. Miklis from Co. Kilkenny). The small amount of material obtained was grown out to harvest in small plots. One part of the seed crop was stored in the Threatened Irish Plant Genebank which is housed in Trinity College Botanic Garden, while the remainder was grown out in large plots to produce material for distribution and growing at field scale. This 'bulking' of material is very important as one of the aims of this project is the production of sufficient quantities of seed (minimum 3kg) such that some will be available for small scale distribtuion. Throughout 1998, 1999 and 2000, the number of collections acquired by the project gradually increased and several varieties are now available in kilogram quantities.
Some of the known Irish wheat, oat and barley varieties which are being grown as part of the Cereals project include:
- Wheat (Triticum aestivum): 'Fane', 'Finian', 'Quern', 'Galway landwheat'
- Oats (Avena sativa): 'BO 111', 'BO 110', 'Brady', 'Glasnevin Triumph', 'Glasnevin Sonas', 'Glasnevin Victory', 'Irish Victor'
- Barley (Hordeum vulgare): 'Beorna', 'Emma', 'Dara', 'Banba', 'Nessa'
The Irish Threatened Plant Genebank contains documented accessions of Rye and Bristle Oat from the Aran islands and Donegal and thus is integral in the conservation and preservation of these valuable genetic resources.
We are continuing to look for non-commercial cereal varieties. However, time is running out as many farmers have stopped growing these traditional varieties. We have to source what is left before it is too late. We need your help to identify localities where traditional farming methods are still being retained. Join us to prevent any further erosion of this important component of Irish agricultural biodiversity.
[back to top]