Grain problems: the expert responds on wheat diseases




I'm Adriana, a primary school teacher from the province of Genoa; I turn to you to explain a problem that has recently arisen in the context of carrying out a learning unit for a second class.
Regarding the sowing of wheat in the garden, carried out by the children on October 24, 2008, we had a nasty surprise: the wheat seedlings died. (the seedlings at the end of November had already reached a height of 13 cm)
Each child tried to give a reason for what happened and almost everyone attributed the responsibility to the large amount of snow that fell this year and the large amount of snow laden with salt that was thrown onto our garden by the snow blower.
To test the salt hypothesis, the children proposed to do an experiment: re-sow the wheat grains in 2 pots; in one when the seedlings are born put the salt and in the other not.
(I would not, however, exclude, as a contributing cause, the weight of the large amount of snow added by the snowplow)
I would be grateful if, as an expert person, you can validate our hypotheses or / and if you can give us other reasons.
I tell you that I have already had this experience of sowing wheat on other occasions and this has never happened.
Waiting for your answer
Thank you for your attention


Dear teacher Adriana,

with pleasure I answer this question because it is a little different from the usual ones that are proposed to me.

First of all, congratulations for the experiments he conducts with the children: nowadays it is not easy to find teachers who make children experience the thrill of seeing the birth of a plant and therefore of life starting from a seed.

Now to answer the question I believe, from the things he writes, that the causes that may have determined the death of your wheat may be different and that the reasons listed may all be valid.

The seedlings were in that phase which agronomically is called "tillering", that is when the plant begins to have 3-4 leaves. In this phase, the environmental factors that influence the success of the cultivation are: availability of oxygen in the soil, temperature, soil humidity, lighting and nutritional conditions and by analyzing the presence / absence of these factors, we can find out what was the cause.

The temperatures have dropped a lot this year and if the ground has frozen for a long enough time this could have caused a swelling of the land mass (the water that turns into ice increases in volume) with an uprooting of the seedlings. Generally the practice that is done when such an emergency is foreseen is a rolling of the soil to re-adhere the soil to the roots but I don't think you have thought of this possibility. If the young roots lose their adhesion to the soil, they are obviously destined to die.

Low temperatures in themselves are not harmful to the grain (within certain limits of course) but become so to the extent that the soil is not adequately prepared for this eventuality.

Now I don't know if and how you worked the soil before planting the seeds, this practice is also very important to ensure good permeability of the soil. Normally the pre-sowing process is plowing or in your case, a hoeing at least thirty centimeters deep. The importance of this practice is linked to the fact that the soil does not remain compact and therefore in the case of incessant rains, it favors the drainage of excess water. If this has not been done or has been done partially, it could also have occurred that the water has not managed to leach as it should and therefore has saturated the soil with consequent lack of oxygen at the level of the root system, conditions which generate the death of plants by asphyxiation. In fact, in areas where the rains are normally abundant, the bedding technique is used, among other things, which consists in sowing on a sort of raised row of land that improves the disposal of excess water, but obviously you could not have foreseen this, since the rains are not normally that intense.

But even if these causes did not occur, surely the distribution of the salt and the addition of sodium chloride caused the seedlings to die. In fact, salt brings with it two types of problems, agronomically speaking: one of a chemical type and one of a physical type.

Chemical modifications can be of two types:

  • one linked to the fact that the salt dissolved in the circulating solution of the soil (generally in the water) retains the water and makes it unavailable to the plants as the force that the plant should exert to? tear? to the salt the water molecules are clearly inferior to those that the salt exerts on the water (in practice there is an osmotic pressure much stronger than that which the root system can exert) and since the plant also has to overcome the strength of the soil that retains water, in this situation the plant, despite having liters of water available ...? is dying of thirst.? To explain it in other words: it is as if a pump were extended from the ground floor to the third floor of a building and the person on the third floor was told that in order to drink he must suck the water contained in with the force of his lungs. a tank placed on the ground floor;
  • the modification of the ph of the soil due to the fact that the salt raises the ph of the soil to very high levels (therefore a very basic soil) which results in the unavailable yield of the mineral elements useful to the plant as they bind to form other compounds that they are not usable by plants, so the plant ...? Are you starving?

The physical changes are due to the fact that an excess of salt in the soil, due to its high water absorbency, also changes the structure of the soil, reducing the free spaces for both air and water circulation with the consequences who can imagine.

As for the layer of snow above the ground this is generally not a problem if it is soft snow rained down from the sky but since it tells me that the snowplow has deposited large quantities so it was not soft snow but certainly had bought. a certain compactness, this too could have been a cause creating an asphyxiated environment.

In short, a disastrous situation that could only end with the death of the poor wheat seedlings.

I hope I was clear, if there are any doubts, let me know.

Best regards to her and a hug to her children.

Dr. Maria Giovanna Davoli

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Even inexperienced readers have noticed that grains such as amaranth and quinoa have begun to appear in supermarkets. It is definitely not just a matter of fashion.

For years there has been a general misinformation that has made white and refined flour perceived as the best way to use cereals, and wheat, wheat has been proposed as "the" cereal to use.

Today finally people are rediscovering the value of wholeness, the importance of organic production and also the meaning of different species of cereals, with different characteristics from each other.

In fact, it is no coincidence that we are witnessing a growth in cases of celiac disease, linked to an excessive use of wheat alone.

Practical examples of variability for well-being

The presence of these alternative grains therefore indicates that consumers are expanding a niche market until recently relegated to dark corners of diet food stores, as recently reported in an article in the Associated Press.

According to the Nielsen company, which specializes in market research, the sale of products that have whole grains as an ingredient has grown by 9.5% compared to last year. Among the various cereals, amaranth is of particular importance.

Cultivated for millennia by the Aztecs, it contains twice as much iron as wheat and provides a greater amount of protein and fiber. Quinoa, formerly grown in the Andes, has a lower fiber content but still provides more protein and iron than wheat.

As reported by Nu-World Food 100 grams of the cereals listed below provide:

  • Fiber, 12.2 g
  • Protein, 13.7 g
  • Iron, 3.8 mg

  • Fiber, 15.2 g
  • Protein, 14.5 g
  • Iron, 7.6 mg

  • Fiber, 15.5 g
  • Protein, 14.2 g
  • Iron, 4 mg

Amaranth also has large amounts of amino acids such as lysine, methionine and cysteine ​​which make it an excellent source of protein with a higher nutritional value than other grains.

Amaranth is low in sodium and does not contain saturated fat.

It is therefore a cereal that has the "stuff" to avoid fattening. More intensely than wheat (even whole wheat), it reduces the possible insulin peaks resulting from its intake, having a lower glycemic index thanks to the greater protein presence and the higher content of indigestible fiber.


With sweat the toxins accumulated in the extracellular matrix are eliminated, it is necessary to see how many toxins she has accumulated. First, if the intestine does not work well, fermentation takes place, cadaverine and putrescine are absorbed and then eliminated later with perspiration, even "intolerant" and poorly digested foods can cause bad smell, many people "stink" of onion mixed with tomato and garlic seems to smell the rotten sauce. Practical application of this: you begin to eliminate all "junk" foods, tomato, onion, garlic, preserved foods and drinks, these can also be the cause wheat flour, change your diet one day rice, then polenta, wheat flour buckwheat, soy, increase fresh foods, even cooked fruits and vegetables. He should also take homotoxicological drugs that activate the Krebs cycle, stimulate the elimination of quinones. Consider that biological medicine has many drugs available, with physiological reasoning and does not reduce everything to psychological problems. It also has tools that speed up diagnosis. Unfortunately he does not accept the pill because it alters the whole system.

Dr. Alberto Moschini
Alternative Medicine Specialist (homeopathy, acupuncture...)

Therefore, among the symptoms of wheat allergy there are hives, with redness and itching, and angioedema, with the swelling subcutaneous in particular around the eyes or lips, and then respiratory symptoms such as nasal congestion, difficulty in breathing, asthma, up to anaphylaxis. A particular form of anaphylaxis related to wheat allergy is exercise-induced anaphylaxis. This may affect patients who have ingested grain-containing foods and exercised in the next two to four hours.

The role of immunity

The symptom picture of celiac disease, an autoimmune disease characterized by an immune reaction to gluten intake, differs from patient to patient. It tends to include intestinal symptoms (from abdominal pain to diarrhea to constipation) and extra-intestinal symptoms (headache, chronic fatigue). "The patient's clinical history - continues the specialist - can lead to the diagnostic suspicion that in the case of celiac disease and wheat allergy can be confirmed with serological data, while for gluten sensitivity there are no confirmation tests and diagnosis it is exclusionary ".

The allergens that trigger the immune system reaction can be the different proteins contained in the wheat, therefore not just gluten. This is the protein complex present in various cereals including rye and barley that is formed in the processing of cereals, when the flour is combined with water, and which gives the typical elasticity of the kneaded dough. Proteins such as albumin or globulin can also be the triggers of wheat allergy.

"Wheat allergy, like all allergies, is mediated by antibodies of the IGE class. As mentioned earlier, gluten allergy is very rare in adults and the prick tests available are not specific for gliadins (gluten proteins) which, in suspicion, are always required. In adults, wheat allergy occurs very rarely with only gastrointestinal symptoms and generally at least one other allergy is present ".

"If there is confirmation of an actual wheat allergy - concludes Dr. Preatoni - this should be excluded from the diet to prevent clinically important reactions that can even lead to anaphylaxis ".


Let's see what the benefits that this food is able to give our body:

Full of antioxidants

Thanks to the content of routine is tannins, buckwheat has an antioxidant action that helps protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals. In addition, phytonutrients protect against disease by strengthening the body.

Great for the cardiovascular system

This pseudocereal, eaten daily, helps fight bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood favoring a better supply of good cholesterol (HDL) over the total one. The presence of routine then helps toning the capillary walls reducing the risk of bleeding and helps the microcirculation. The antiplatelet properties finally make the blood more fluid, preventing pathologies such as heart attack and stroke.

Perfect for diabetics

Buckwheat has a low glycemic index, equal to 50, and is therefore ideal for those suffering from diabetes. It also helps to hold under control the level of sugar in the blood and contains a greater amount of slowly digesting starch.

Prevents gallstones

Among the properties of buckwheat there is also that of being able to prevent gallstones. This plant, like all foods rich in fibers insoluble, it helps to speed up the intestinal transit, thus reducing the secretions of bile acids.

Gluten free

Buckwheat does not contain gluten, so it's perfect for celiac sufferers. Her flour it is perfect for multiple uses: gluten free pasta, bread and desserts.

Natural energizer

Her remineralizing properties is fortifying make this type of grain a perfect energizing food for those who practice sport, for those who suffer of states of fatigue and to fight the organic decay. These properties depend on the presence of amino acids and gods mineral salts contained in the plant.

Baby food

Rich in nutrients, easily digestible, buckwheat is recommended for feeding children thanks to the important presence of proteins, lipids and essential amino acids.


The presence of mineral salts gives buckwheat diuretic properties which help fight water retention and keep blood pressure under control.


Thanks to its high satiating power, buckwheat is perfect for the diets of all those who intend to lose weight.

Great for skin and hair health

THE flavonoids it contains also help our beauty by preventing skin aging. The presence of the vitamin A, B vitamins and zinc helps i hair to grow up healthy and strong.

Useful during breastfeeding

Buckwheat owns galactogogue activity, that is, it stimulates the production of milk, therefore it is very useful for mothers who breastfeed their baby.

Leaves to cure varicose veins

The leaves of the plant carry out an important therapeutic activity: their infusion is very useful for those suffering from circulatory problems and venous. In England this herbal tea, called “Buckwheat tea“, Is used precisely for cure varicose veins.

Can you live without wheat?

Can you live without wheat? And without milk? Meat? Animal products? Without something, in short? For creed, lifestyle? Health? Fashion? Second Michael Pollan, which only excludes "what our grandmother wouldn't eat", no. According to many others, yes. Everyone says it in some book. If Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin became famous with "Skinny Bitch"In which they gave over 200 pages of reasons to be vegan, in 2011 the American William Davis published a book, which now arrives in Italy, which is called"Wheat Belly", That is" wheat belly (the Italian title is "The zero grain diet"). Here the doctor promotes a lifestyle that totally excludes all types of wheat and starchy products. According to him it is fundamental for health, precisely because the "wheat belly", that is the "wheat belly", is the cause and symptom of numerous problems. That abdominal fat hurts is a widely held theory. It is linked to the increase in the glycemic index (on which most nutritional theories are now based, from the Sears Zone to the Speciani GIFT Diet) and the increased risk of cardiovascular disease. According to Davis, however, the only way to defeat it, not for aesthetics, but for well-being, would be the total elimination of wheat from the daily diet. First of all why genetic manipulations of high-yield crops would have brought wheat and maize in primis too far from their natural state (and here Pollan returns: it is wheat different from what our grandmothers ate). But it would not be only this, given that the American doctor still lashes out against any type of ear. Despite having many celiac friends, who deal with this problem every day, it is difficult for me to imagine a diet with zero grain and cereals, as in general any diet that excludes a food. The only thing I don't eat is licorice ... But beyond the fundamental nutritional principles, also taught by our GPs, much of the balance of our daily diets depends on us, on our bodies, on our awareness or non-awareness of them. I take myself as an example: the subject of abdominal fat interests me a lot and concerns me closely. Certainly not for aesthetics (the most sensual woman in history, Marilyn Monroe, had a splendid belly), but for health: I also tend to accumulate it (I'm an "apple", as it is often said to define the thinner bodies on the hips and rounder on the waist), and in the opinion of many doctors, it is a wake-up call and must be kept under control. However, there are the same rules for everyone. That's why I thought I'd ask the GIFT nutritionist biologist a few questions Giulia Mecozzi. Starting from some of Davis's statements, which the doctor helps me understand, and which sound even harder in a country like ours, where wheat is a fundamental part of nutrition.

Those who accumulate abdominal fat are more prone to cardiovascular disease: is it true?
Abdominal fat is characteristic of insulin resistance, or the reduced ability of cells to react to insulin. The NOT REGULATED intake of carbohydrates triggers this mechanism of decreased response of cells to the presence of sugars over time. This situation is strictly connected with the accumulation first in the visceral and then in the abdominal level of fat which is thus correlated with the possibility of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. To reduce this undesirable result, it is necessary to pay particular attention to the distribution. and combination of meals and it is therefore important that carbohydrates are consumed in a balanced way, always in integral form and well matched with proteins and vegetables.

What is the theory of glycemic control?
A diet that controls glycemic peaks helps to lose weight, regulates the sense of hunger, facilitates the reduction of inflammation from food. The glycemic peaks are followed by the circulation of insulin, a hormone used to cleanse the blood from sugar. Insulin pushes cells to accumulate stocks of sugars and fats, thus nourishing tissues such as skeletal muscle, heart and adipose tissue. Taking a dietary attitude that keeps glycemic fluctuations at bay and therefore insulin peaks allows to reduce the stimulus of fat accumulation, which is also a producer of inflammatory molecules.

What is food inflammation?
Food can cause in sensitized people the release of inflammatory molecules that gradually raise the internal inflammatory pressure up to exceeding a threshold level that leads to the onset of symptoms, discomfort, diseases, disorders such as diarrhea, headache, gastritis, dermatitis , drowsiness, asthenia, constipation and many others.
Investigating individual reactivity to specific foods becomes essential to plan a food path that points to the reduction of the inflammatory level and therefore to the regression of the symptom.

Photo Conor Lawless @Flickr

Is it true that wheat is the main cause?
Specifically, yes, it is true that wheat and gluten are among the most important causes of inflammation from food and if there is a reactivity to these substances then it can and must be managed by guiding our body and our immune system towards the recovery of tolerance. without pushing people towards difficult, impractical and sometimes dangerous models. To return to a state of equilibrium and make peace with food, it becomes necessary to study individual reactivity to set up personalized recovery programs.

Are baked goods really psychological addictive?
The connection between nutrition and emotional state is very strong. Our mood is regulated by a balance of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and beta-endorphins. Whenever we take a meal based mainly on carbohydrates, our body responds by releasing serotonin, thus giving us a feeling of calm and well-being. This idyll is quickly interrupted by the lowering of blood sugar, obtained by the efficient circulation of insulin. The rapid lowering of blood sugars has always been, starting from the Paleolithic until today, a condition of alarm, of instability, of strong discomfort that pushes towards the compulsive search for other carbohydrates. The intake will thus restart the mechanism by triggering a vicious circle that is harmful to mood, weight gain and inflammation. A balanced attitude that focuses on the intake of carbohydrates in decreasing quantities throughout the day and properly matched to a protein source is a winner for harmonizing blood sugar fluctuations and thus regulating "psychological dependence".

Does living without wheat mean living without carbohydrates? And how to replace them?
Instead of thinking with a view to elimination, it would be more sensible to change our attitude and move towards the recovery of a harmonious relationship with food, thus doing without extremist attitudes and exclusion. If there is a reactivity to wheat then it is good to understand that it is possible to manage it by guiding the body towards the recovery of tolerance towards the food in question. This is achieved by setting up a rotating diet which includes days of exclusion and days of reintroduction. In the former, foods are excluded which, in addition of course to wheat, determine a reactivity similar to that of wheat such as spelled, barley, kamut and rye. In these days it is possible to make a serene introduction of millet, rice, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, amaranth, which represent a very valid alternative source of carbohydrates. On the days of reintroduction, on the other hand, foods belonging to the “wheat food group” are reintegrated.

Do whole grains have a lower glycemic index?
It is true, but it is important to combine the concept of the glycemic index (which indicates the ability of a carbohydrate to raise the concentration of sugar in the blood) with that of the glycemic load which is the real responsible for raising the concentration of sugar in the blood. The glycemic load is obtained by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by the actual amount of sugar that is consumed.

Giulia Mecozzi, gift biologist and nutritionist

Is there something that everyone could actually eliminate from their diet?
All refined sugars, industrial products, all foods that have a list of unknown names on the label and are therefore rich in sweeteners, dyes, flavorings. In practice we are talking about white sugar, refined flours that give us only empty calories without real nutritional power, and then vegetable fats and margarines that contain lipid substances that are not naturally present in nature and that are not recognized by our body. Also harmful are artificial sweeteners - glucose syrup, carbonated soft drinks, spirits, spirits, industrial sweets, glutamate, and products that contain nitrates and nitrates.
Therefore, all the foods that are impoverished and excessively manipulated by industrial processes and which are far from the natural state present in nature are removed.

Why do you think "exclusive" models tend to prevail in daily nutrition, even though we all now know the basic rules of good eating?
The push probably comes from the desire to reach a goal of well-being and beauty in a short time, without respecting one's own organism, which instead has extraordinary potential. Unfortunately, many food models proposed tend to deceive, giving fleeting moments of satisfaction. The term diet means lifestyle, therefore all diets that can be adopted as a way of life and that are able to last over time, guiding the body towards a state of balance, beauty and well-being, are worthy of this definition. It is therefore all those models that go beyond the fashion of the moment.

What are the key principles of your nutritional method?
These are the ten rules of the GIFT Diet (acronym that stands for Graduality, Individuality, Flexibility, Tone): Combination of proteins and carbohydrates in every meal control of glycemic index and load caloric distribution of meals with a significant caloric intake in breakfast, average at lunch , light in the evening free fruit and vegetables generous supply of water and fiber long chewing decisive reduction in the intake of "junk foods" physical activity control of intolerances in order to reduce the general inflammatory state psychophysical balance: there can be no restoration of physical well-being regardless of the achievement of a greater psychic balance.

Durum wheat, over half of the income comes from aid

For several years now, the CAP has been supporting farmers 'income through payments per hectare, in order to protect farmers' income and at the same time protect the environment, through strict cross-compliance rules to which all European farmers are subject to receive such payments.

In fact, according to data from the European Commission (fig. 1), the CAP affects farmers' income for about 28% in Italy and 38% in the EU, a rather significant percentage considering that it represents a fifth of all profitability. .

However, this percentage is not the same in every agricultural sector there are some sectors in which the CAP affects profitability less and sectors in which the CAP affects much more: a classic example is the durum wheat sector.

Durum wheat is the most representative cereal crop of Italian agriculture, as well as the basis of one of the most important Italian agri-food chains: that of pasta.

Italy is the second world producer of durum wheat in quantitative terms (behind only Canada): it produces, in fact, about 4.4 million tons on an average area of ​​1.2 million hectares every year: it is the cereal crop most important in terms of surfaces in Italy. Faced with such numbers, the need for a strong and reliable policy is indispensable.

EU policy "is worth" over 50%

Table 1 shows the incidence of CAP funding in the durum wheat sector in Italian companies that have grown this crop from 2008 to 2016, with an area greater than 5 ha.

The data was extracted from the sample from Rica (Agricultural Accounting Information Network).

Profits have had fluctuating values ​​over the years, going from a minimum of 492.74 € / ha of Gross Income in 2009 to a maximum of 660.22 € / ha in 2012 however, the amount of direct payments have been rather stable , averaging around 342.92 € / ha.

Without these aids, we go from an average Gross Income value of 608 € / ha to a value of 265 € / ha, a fairly significant difference, which affects 57% in percentage terms.

In other words, from 2008 to 2016, the income of durum wheat growers was always guaranteed, for more than 50%, by the aid of the Community Agricultural Policy.

Moreover, an interesting data is the Net Income without CAP, which has shown a negative value in all the years taken into consideration: this indicates that most farmers, without the aid provided by the CAP, would not only have grown durum wheat, as they would have experienced a real economic loss, a clear sign that the resilience of this sector is strongly conditioned by these supports.

Regional differences

The national production of durum wheat is around 4.4 million tons per year, however, most of the production is carried out by six regions: Puglia, Sicily, Marche, Emilia-Romagna, Basilicata and Tuscany.

Nella tabella 2 è rappresentata l’incidenza del sostegno della Pac nelle regioni precedentemente citate, che hanno coltivato grano duro dal 2008 al 2016, con una superficie maggiore di 5 ettari.

Molto interessante è la media del Reddito Netto senza Pac, che vede solamente la Puglia e la Basilicata con dei valori positivi, mentre le altre regioni presentano tutte dei valori negativi con un minimo registrato dalla Toscana di -234 €/ha, che ci fa capire la difficoltà di ottenere reddito coltivando grano duro in questa regione, anche alla luce del fatto che la Pac incide per il 62% sul Reddito Lordo e rappresenta quindi gran parte della redditività (fig. 2 e fig. 3).

Per quanto riguarda l’importo dei pagamenti diretti, la Puglia è la regione che presenta i valori più elevati, pari a 388,99€/ha, mentre la Sicilia i valori più bassi, pari a 238,73 €/ha le altre regioni, invece, si collocano vicino alla media nazionale.

Comunque, anche nell’ambito regionale, la Pac ha inciso sempre più del 50% sulle redditività, con un valore minimo nelle Marche pari al 53% ed un valore massimo in Toscana, pari al 62%.

Recuperare redditività

Nonostante l’Italia sia la seconda produttrice mondiale di grano duro e che questa coltura rappresenti un cardine fondamentale della filiera agroalimentare italiana, i fondi della Pac risultano indispensabili per tenere in vita questo settore, che altrimenti farebbe fatica a mantenersi e a svilupparsi.

La riduzione delle risorse della Pac per il periodo 2021-2027 fa presagire un futuro ancora più difficile per i produttori di grano duro, a causa della riduzione dei pagamenti.

Per recuperare a questa prospettiva fortemente negativa, i produttori di grano duro dovranno intraprendere diverse azioni:

- migliorare l’orientamento al mercato e quindi aumentare i prezzi di vendita e i ricavi, tramite nuove forme di relazione con gli utilizzatori come i contratti di filiera

- rendere più efficiente la produzione, tramite il progresso tecnico allo scopo di ottenere un aumento delle rese ad ettaro ed una diminuzione dei costi

- produrre grano ad alto grado di differenziazione, in stretta connessione con la pasta alimentare di elevata qualità, sfruttando anche l’obbligo di origine del grano duro nella pasta.

Le prospettive del grano duro sono positive per gli agricoltori che mirano all’innovazione e all’orientamento al mercato. La Pac, che oggi pesa per il 57% sul reddito lordo, avrà un’incidenza inferiore di almeno 10 punti percentuali nella prossima programmazione 2021-2027.

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