Rye: A Nordic Specialty
Rye is a cereal with modest requirements
regarding soil, fertilization and climate. The main cultivation area of rye is the
north-western part of the Eastern Hemisphere. During the latest decade new rye varieties
with better resistance and quality have been developed.
Rye (Secale cereale) is a special cereal grown almost
exclusively in the north-western part of the Eastern Hemisphere. Nearly 95% of the global
production takes place in the northern part of the area between the Ural Mountains and the
Rye has been considered to be a primitive crop with low yield, long and weak straw, and
problematic behaviour regarding sprouting in the ear. The positive features in cultivation
practices include low requirements regarding soil and fertilization, as well as a
relatively good overwintering ability. Therefore rye has gained popularity especially in
areas with relatively poor soils such as the wide sandy ridges in Poland and some areas in
Germany (Salovaara and Autio 2001).
The use of rye is mainly based on local traditional nutritional practices. Traditional rye
bread is the dark sour bread known in Finland, the Baltics, Poland, Belarus and the
Russian Federation. This tradition has somewhat changed the more westward one goes, for
instance to Sweden, Denmark and Germany. There has been a steady decrease in the global
total production of rye. The production has diminished even in the areas with long
traditions in the use of dark bread.
The greatest rye producer used to be the former Soviet Union. Now this has been split in
two main parts: the Russian Federation 3-4 million tonnes and Belarus about 1-2 million
tonnes. Poland, which produces about 3 million tonnes, and Germany,
with 2 million
tonnes in year 2003, were the largest producers (FAOSTAT 2006).
The Nordic countries are relatively small rye producers, and the yearly production
fluctuates depending on weather conditions at the time of sowing and, to some extent, on
The harvest of rye in Sweden has developed well in the last 20 years, with a good quality
product for soft rye bread and rye crisp bread. Due to successful breeding Sweden is
self-sufficient in rye, and in some good years, a surplus is also exported to other Nordic
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