In a project lasting several years, the rye varieties of the Aosta Valley are described in order to be able to compare them with those of the Valais. The agroscope gene bank in Changins has received from the gene bank in St. Petersburg some rye varieties of Swiss origin, which are also described.

Rye (Secale cereale L.) is a hardy cereal adapted to extreme climatic and geographical conditions: resistant to cold, drought and poor soils. In recent years, thanks to a surge of interest in local and traditional products, this cereal has become an essential part of the local diet.
however, back in the spotlight.
Rye also has a high nutritional value and an appreciable richness in minerals, mainly manganese, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and copper. It also contains valuable vitamins from the B group, vitamin E and folic acid. In addition, its high fibre content makes it an interesting food for lowering cholesterol levels, combating constipation and thus preventing colon cancer (Gråsten et al. 2000).
Rye was the main cereal in the high valleys of the Valais, but also on the other side of the Great St. Bernard Pass in the Aosta Valley. Canons played a fundamental role in agriculture in both valleys, they had to produce food for the hospice. Here is an extract from the Magazine “Mission of the Great Saint Bernard”, Year 2012 – Number 3 :
“One of the serious problems of the 1848 revolutions in Valais, is that they took all the properties of the St-Bernard in Switzerland. Those in the Valais were called the “St. Bernard’s pantry” and their annual income, together with that from the main parishes served by the canons north of the Alps, was used to make the rye bread for the hospice. They needed 11,200 kg of rye bread per year. All of a sudden, the hospice was deprived of its bread, the basis of its diet. It had to be provided for immediately, or else disappear. This is the reason for the renting – in 1848 – then the purchase – in 1859 – of the farm of St-Oyen. On its land, one can plant and harvest cereals, 24 quintals in 1930. After their drying, they have to be passed through one of the two mills of the farm, then the bread is made, baked in the oven and transported to the hospice. “It is assumed that the varieties on both sides were the same at the beginning, given the active exchanges.
And it was the Canons of the Great St. Bernard, very involved in agriculture in the Valais and the Aosta Valley, founded the Aosta Practical School of Agriculture in 1951. The Regional Agricultural Institute started in the 90s to collect local rye varieties and at the same time they took over the 5 accessions of the Aosta Valley present in the gene bank in Changins, collected at the end of the 80s by Agroscope collaborators.
The aim of the project is: to better identify the material in the gene bank, the milling and baking quality of the rye varieties, in order to better meet the requirements of rye users, in close collaboration with the Regional Agricultural Institute of the Aosta Valley. The local varieties of the Aosta Valley, they are also part of the Swiss heritage.

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