BACKGROUND: The increasing interest in organic food products and environmental friendly practices has emphasised the importance of selecting crop varieties suitable for the low-input sector. Moreover, in recent years the relationship between diet and human health has gained much attention among consumers. The aim of this study was to comparatively evaluate the agronomic performance and the nutrient and phytochemical composition of old and modern Italian wheat genotypes grown under low-input management.
RESULTS: Research highlighted that several old wheat genotypes were comparable to the modern ones in terms of agronomic performance and nutrient content. Genotype and environmental conditions (growing season), as well as their interaction, significantly affected the phytochemical composition of wheat grains for most of the analysed bioactive compounds. High variability was observed among the wheat genotypes for dietary fibre (154.7–183.3 g kg−1), polyphenol (1.94–2.77 mg g−1), tocopherol (9.1–21.2 mg kg−1) and carotenoid (701.4–3243 µg kg−1) content.
CONCLUSION: The comparative study of old and modern wheat varieties highlighted that, under low-input conditions, ancient genotypes may equal modern ones in terms of agronomic traits and additionally provide nutraceutical value-added wheat grains. The most promising ancient varieties for the unique phytochemical profiles are Gentil rosso, Marzuolo d'aqui and Verna. Copyright © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry