SLU news

Webinar: “Ongoing Nordic projects - heritage cereals”

Published: 23 May 2022
Close up on heritage grain on field. Photo.

Recently, Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK, Finland) and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU, Sweden) arranged a webinar on the topic “Ongoing Nordic projects - heritage cereals” with the aim to increase awareness among researchers and non-academic partners on currently running projects and create a platform for new networks and further collaboration

Meeting the challenge of achieving sustainable food production and consumption requires consideration of all major aspects including land and resource use, crop production, consumer behaviour and human health.

Leading researchers, students and industry professionals participated in this half-day webinar, and various aspects of heritage cereals were covered, ranging from genetic and diversity to sustainability and healthy aspects.

Heritage cereals are more diverse than the highly domesticated strains of wheat, but genetic diversity can be recovered.

- Generally, plant breeding is very important, because it is the beginning of food chain”, said Mahbubjon Rahmatov from SLU.

He explained that heritage wheat varieties are a valuable genetic resource. There are some unique genes which can be used to suit taste and color, and provide the consumer with healthier and tastier products. Annika Michelson from HAMK and her research group are also looking for solutions to diversify the varieties cultivated in Finland, utilizing landraces and old commercial varieties.

- The use of old varieties will increase, but we also have to build up a new set of usability criteria when it comes to production and processing of heritage cereals, said Annika.

Another project on diversity from old species were presented by Teija Tenhola-Roininen from Natural Resources Institute Finland. That project is focused on genetic diversity of rye landraces and old cultivars.

- Heritage cereals are potential crops for environment friendly farming with a high resilience to climate change”, added Karin Gerhardt from SLU.

Heritage cereals will be analysed for the content of dietary fibers, essential minerals and bioactive compounds. Preliminary studies suggested higher content of iron and zinc in heritage cereals.

During the webinar, we also discussed nutritional quality of heritage cereals. In a project led by Karin Gerhardt from SLU, heritage cereals will be analysed for the content of dietary fibers, essential minerals and bioactive compounds. Preliminary studies suggested higher content of iron and zinc in heritage cereals. However, high content does not necessary mean that high bioaccessibility. The fraction of absorbed iron from cereals is typically low due to the presence of phytic acid, which forms a complex with positively charged cations, including iron and zinc. Kerstin Fredlund from the company Hidden in Grains in collaboration with other industrial and academic partners are looking for a method to reduce the content of phytic acid in heritage cereals thus increasing bioavailability of essential minerals.

Sensory characteristics and consumer awareness, attitudes and preferences towards heritage cereals were also discussed during the webinar. This is also essential part of many projects, because such knowledge can form a basis for consumer-oriented food product development.

Our event was a fantastic networking opportunity with industry experts and academic partners.  We will continue our work to endorse that heritage cereals have great potential to be a part of the Nordic diet and can be a base for nutritious and tasty products!

Written by Galia Zamaratskaia


Sustainable organic bread from heritage cereals: using history to form the future is a four year research project with the aim to facilitate the production and consumption of organically grown whole grain, bread and other products from historical heritage cereals, by integrating crop, food and social sciences as well as bakers, producers and consumers in an interdisciplinary approach.

In this project we will examine whether old heritage cereals (HC) are more resilient to environmental variation and management considering both production and quality of cereals compared to modern cereals (MC), and analyse the link between consumer preferences and nutritional quality. By reintroducing HC, the diversity in the agricultural landscape will increase, thus helping to reverse the genetic uniformity in agricultural crops that we are facing today.


Galia Zamaratskaia, Senior Lecturer and External Collaboration Specialist
Department of Molecular Sciences, SLU 18 67 20 05