Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccon), also known as farro especially in Italy, is a low yielding, awned wheat. It was one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. It was widely cultivated in the ancient world, but is now a relict crop in mountainous regions of Europe and Asia.
DNA studies on emmer wheat have shown its place of domestication to be near Şanlıurfa, in Turkey. Domesticated emmer first appears at Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites in the Fertile Crescent, either in the PPNA period (9800-8800 cal BC) or the early-mid PPNB (8800-7500 cal BC). Emmer wheat and barley were the dominant crops of the ancient Near East, and spread in the Neolithic to Europe and the Indian subcontinent.
In the Near East, in southern Mesopotamia in particular, cultivation of emmer wheat began to decline in the Early Bronze Age, from about 3000 BC, and barley became the standard cereal crop. This has been related to increased salinization of irrigated alluvial soils, of which barley is more tolerant. Emmer had a special place in ancient Egypt, where it was the only wheat cultivated in Pharaonic times, even though neighbouring countries also cultivated einkorn, durum and common wheat. In the absence of any obvious functional explanation, this may simply reflect a marked culinary or cultural preference. Emmer and barley were the primary ingedients in ancient Egyptian bread and beer. In Morocco DNA results of the cereals at Volubilis indicates significant occurrence of hulled emmer.
Emmer wheat is mentioned in ancient rabbinic literature (as one of the five grains forbidden to Jews during Passover). It is often incorrectly translated as spelt in English translations of the rabbinic literature but spelt did not grow in ancient Israel and emmer was a significant crop until the end of the Iron Age. Likewise, references to emmer in Greek and Latin texts are traditionally translated as "spelt," even though spelt was not common in the Classical world until very late in its history.
In northeastern Europe, Emmer (in addition to Einkorn and barley) was one of the most important cereal species and this importance can be seen to increase from 3400 BC onwards. Pliny the Elder, notes that although emmer was called far in his time formerly it was called adoreum (or "glory"), providing an etymology explaining that emmer had been held in glory (N.H. 18.3), and later in the same book he describes its role in sacrifices.
Today emmer is primarily a relict crop in mountainous areas. Its value lies in its ability to give good yields on poor soils, and its resistance to fungal diseases such as stem rust that are prevalent in wet areas. Emmer is grown in Morocco, Spain (Asturias), the Carpathian mountains on the border of the Czech and Slovak republics, Albania, Turkey, Switzerland and Italy.
Italy is an interesting case as, uniquely, emmer cultivation is well established and even expanding. In the mountainous Garfagnana area of Tuscany emmer (known as farro) is grown by farmers as an IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) product, with its geographic identity protected by law. Production is certified by a co-operative body, the Consorzio Produttori Farro della Garfagnana. IGP-certified farro is widely available in health food shops across Europe, and even in some British supermarkets. The demand for Italian farro has led to competition from non-certified farro, grown in lowland areas and often consisting of a different wheat species, spelt (Triticum spelta).
A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known grain has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.
Genetic structure of wild emmer wheat populations as reflected by transcribed versus anonymous SSR markers.(Simple sequence repeat)
Mar 01, 2008; Abstract: Simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers have become a major tool in population genetic analyses. The anonymous genomic...
Molecular evolution of dimeric [alpha]-amylase inhibitor genes in wild emmer wheat and its ecological association.(Research article)
Mar 24, 2008; Authors: Ji-Rui Wang (equal contributor) ; Yu-Ming Wei (equal contributor) ; Xiang-Yu Long ; Ze-Hong Yan ; Eviatar...
Divergent diversity patterns of NBS and LRR domains of resistance gene analogs in wild emmer wheat populations.(nucleotide binding site and leucine-rich repeat)(Report)
Jun 01, 2009; Introduction Resistance (R) genes cloned from a wide range of plant species and conferring resistance to a diverse spectrum of...