Evaluation of Spelt Varieties in Kentucky

By: Bill Bruening

University of Kentucky, Research Specialist



Spelt (Triticum aestivum var. spelta) is a type of hulled wheat that is considered an “ancient grain” and has been under cultivation since approximately 5000 BC.  Spelt has been used for specialty baking, brewing and distillation and as a feed grain for livestock.  Global demand and acreage is limited primarily because spelt hulls typically need to be removed before the grain can be utilized.  In recent years, new markets for spelt as a specialty grain or health food have increased demand.  As a subspecies of common wheat, spelt contains gluten and has many of the same baking qualities as wheat.  It is unsuitable for people with Celiac’s disease, but many people with wheat sensitivities are able to consume spelt products without adverse effects.

Spelt production management is similar to winter wheat.  Spelt is unique in that it has low soil fertility requirements and can be grown on poorly drained soils, as well as sandy soils.  Because of the low fertility requirements and natural pest resistant nature of the hull, spelt has been grown and marketed as an organic crop.  De-hulled grain and processed spelt products are commonly available online and in health food stores. 

With funding support from the Kentucky Small Grains Growers Association, the University of Kentucky Small Grain Variety Testing Program has been evaluating the yield potential and agronomic characteristics of spelt varieties.  This is the first known spelt research conducted in Kentucky.

Results from this trial are available at: https://www.uky.edu/Ag/wheatvarietytest/ .