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The diversity of common wheat within 19th century grain cultivation

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

The collection of the Lauresham Open-Air laboratory includes a "Handbuch des Getreideanbaus" published by Friedrich Körnicke and Hugo Werner in 1885. The volume is characterized by a fascinating and very detailed description of individual grain varieties, including wheat, spelt, corn, and oats.

Hugo Werner collected seeds sent from all over the world for the compilation of the book and eventually cultivated a large part of them at the Royal Agricultural Academy in Poppelsdorf. As a rule, the ear was described, the vegetation briefly sketched, preferred cultivation areas named and in many cases the country of origin indicated. Furthermore, information on the yield, winter hardiness, and storage of the varieties can be found.

Excerpt from the 1885 field crop handbook, here a section on Hunter´s white Wheat

If one asks about common wheat varieties in relation to this year's focus of the "A Year On The Field" project, an astonishing picture of the diversity at that time is revealed.

A total of 343 different common-wheat varieties were classified and described in the book, most of them from the USA, the United Kingdom, and France. However, there were also varieties from Chile, Spain, India, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Algeria, Germany, and Australia.

In terms of the individual countries, the extent of varieties can also be described as usually quite diverse, and here, in particular, region-specific aspects also come into play. Tabl. 1, for example, shows the varieties cultivated in Germany.

Tabl. 1 - Wheat varieties from Germany

A: Piston Wheat (Muticum Al)


Triticum vulgare albidum Al

Frankensteiner Weizen


Kujavischer weisser Weizen

Kujavien (Province of Posen/West Prussia)

Schlesischer Gebirgs-Weizen


Weisser Weizen vom Gilmannsdorf


Schönermark´s Weizen

Halle (Germany)

Triticum vulgare lutescens Al

Weissähriger Probsteier-Weizen




Rheinischer Kling-Weizen

Middle and Lower Rhine (Germany)



Please download the full table of Wheat varieties from Germany here:

Full Table Wheat Varieties from Germany
Download PDF • 521KB

It is clear that both national and regional varieties were cultivated in Germany, but also an astonishing number (just under 50 % of the total varieties) of international origin, especially from England and France.

It would be a task of future research to evaluate how many of these "old" varieties are still cultivated today, are preserved in gene banks or have been replaced by modern cultivars. Especially in the context of cultivation within the framework of organic farming or also in museum contexts, these varieties - if still preserved - are of amazingly great value.


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