Maris Widgeon is an heritage variety of wheat that has traditionally been used for thatching in the UK. This variety was developed in 1964 by the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridgeshire. The 'Maris' in the name, was derived from Maris Lane, the address of PBI headquarters in Trumpington, Cambridge.
It produces a tall, strong stemmed straw without the use of artificial fertilisers, which makes it popular with thatchers and straw craftsmen. It is also popular with artisan bread bakers and specialist organic millers.
Problems in production
There are no wheat varieties, suitable for thatching, on the current NIAB seed list. Until recently (2008/9) the only commercial seed distributor for Maris Widgeon, was Pickards Seeds, of Burrington, Devon. Maris Widgeon is one of the few varieties on the National List of Permitted Varieties - (EU legislation policed by DEFRA). Other traditional varieties have become unlisted which means that they cannot be bought, sold or even given away. For this reason new straw growers have no option but to grow Maris Widgeon from kept seed.
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