General description of the project proposal

Winter rye has several advantages, including high and distinctive nutritional value, good winter hardiness and tolerance to environmental stresses. It is characterized by high drought tolerance and can be cultivated on various climatic conditions due to very good adaptation. Cultivation of winter rye is economically beneficial in the regions characterized by severe spring drought periods. It produces good yields even in low-fertile soils where other cereals may fail. Winter rye is a sustainable crop in economic and ecological terms with potential to contribute to ensuring global food security and therefore it deserves more attention within search of local and regional options for sustainable, environmentally-friendly food systems. Rye and rye products (rye bread and crispbread, rye flakes and porridges, pastries and snack products) may serve for diversifying diets and intensifying linkages between agriculture, nutrition and health through nutrition-enhancing agriculture.

A special side event on rye initiated by and implemented with large participation of the Ministry of Agriculture of Estonia was hold at the European Regional Conference in 2012 in Baku. FAO REU finds the potential of rye promising, but despite the advantages of this crop, the production level of rye has declined significantly in the last 20 years. In addition, the number of rye varieties is reduced in comparison with other cereal crops and research on rye breeding is rather limited. Significant quantities of rye currently used for animal feeding may be redirected to human nutrition. Along with several events dedicated to various aspects of rye, such as international conferences and workshops conducted in Switzerland and Estonia in 2011 and 2012, FAO supports the efforts of Estonia to reverse the negative trends in rye production and consumption and to prepare technical and policy frameworks for the conservation and sustainable use of rye regionally and worldwide. For this purpose, the following actions are envisaged:

Establishing and developing an international network of organizations and companies dealing with various aspects of rye, such as:

  • Rye breeding, seed production, cultivation, milling, production of rye commodities/products

  • Scientific research, preservation of rye genetic resources

  • Advisory services

  • Education and training

  • Preservation of traditional heritage, collection of historical material


Collecting up-to date information on the state of art on rye production, utilization and consumption at country level.

Elaborating a project to raise attention to the importance of rye in terms of breeding, production, processing/transformation into a variety of rye products with ultimate aim to increase the demand and consumption of rye products by consumers.

It is expected that these acts will contribute to focusing the regional attention to the role of rye in ensuring food security, nutrition, feeding livestock and increase the visibility of the high potential of rye to contribute to protection of biodiversity, sustainable food systems and to the variety of its possible application.

Project network interest groups:

  • plant breeders, researchers

  • seed growers, seed distributors

  • bread grain producers

  • millers

  • bakeries

  • producers of niche rye products

  • bread sales networks

  • end-users, consumers

  • civil society, NGO

  • governmental organisations, legislative authorities

Depending on nature of activity and defined target group foreseen activities shall be undertaken either on national and international level.

Activities shall secure preservation of biodiversity, to promote healthy food and nutrition, to enhance rye related research, to maintain national cultural traditions.

There is an Estonian Rye Route, a network of several institutions dealing with research, cultivation, utilisation and education on rye.