Emmer

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T. dicoccon
T. turgidum subsp. dicoccon

Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum), 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.

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Taxonomy

Strong similarities in morphology and genetics show that wild emmer (Triticum dicoccoides Koern.) is the wild ancestor and a crop wild relative of domesticated emmer (Triticum dicoccum). Because wild and domesticated emmer are interfertile with other tetraploid wheats, some taxonomists consider all tetraploid wheats to belong to one species, T. turgidum. Under this scheme, the two forms are recognized at subspecies level, thus T. turgidum subsp. dicoccoides and T. turgidum subsp. dicoccon. Either naming system is equally valid; the latter lays more emphasis on genetic similarities.

For a wider discussion, see Wheat#Genetics & Breeding and Wheat taxonomy

Wild emmer

Wild emmer (Triticum dicoccoides) grows wild in the fertile crescent of the Near East. It is a tetraploid wheat formed by the hybridization of two diploid wild grasses, Triticum urartu (closely related to wild einkorn (T. boeoticum)), and as yet unidentified Aegilops species related to A. searsii or A. speltoides.

Morphology

Like einkorn and spelt wheats, emmer is a hulled wheat. In other words, it has strong glumes (husks) that enclose the grains, and a semi-brittle rachis. On threshing, a hulled wheat spike breaks up into spikelets. These require milling or pounding to release the grains from the glumes.

Wild emmer wheat spikelets effectively self-cultivate by propelling themselves mechanically into soils with their awns. During a period of increased humidity during the night, the awns of the spikelet become erect and draw together, and in the process push the grain into the soil. During the daytime the humidity drops and the awns slacken back again; however, fine silica hairs on the awns act as hooks in the soil and prevent the spikelets from reversing back out again. During the course of alternating stages of daytime and nighttime humidity, the awns' pumping movements, which resemble a swimming frog kick, will drill the spikelet as much as an inch or more into the soil.[1]

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