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 two wheat varieties, suitable for thatching, on the current National List of Permitted Varieties (EU legislation policed by DEFRA) - Maris Widgeon and Maris Huntsman. Until 2008/9 the only commercial seed distributor for Maris Widgeon was Pickards Seeds, of Burrington, Devon. Other traditional varieties have become unlisted which means that they cannot be bought, sold or even given away. At one time, no option existed but to grow Maris Widgeon from kept seed.
Maris Widgeon is currently commercially available from various outlets, such as Pearce Seeds of Yeovil, Somerset, for commercial or organic farming. Pearce Seeds are responsible for 'maintaining and protecting' the Maris Widgeon heritage variety of wheat.
- Bread-making quality of wheat: a century of breeding in Europe By Bob Belderok, J. Mesdag, Dingena A. Donner
- "Days are numbered for Widgeon variety". Farmersguardian.com. 2008-08-29. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
- "Thatching Specifications". The East Anglia Master Thatcher’s Association. June 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
- Low, Susan (9 November 2003). "Living Review Food & Drink: Just What We Knead". The Independent on Sunday. Archived from the original on 19 January 2014.
- "Special Edition of Plant Breeders' Rights and the UK National Lists" (PDF). Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette. Animal and Plant Health Agency. 2016-01-01. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
- "Certification, marketing, packaging and labelling of cereal seed". Businesslink.gov.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
- "Growing Thatching Straw in Wales" (PDF). Glaus.org.uk. 11 February 2006. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
- "Cereals - Winter". Pearce Seeds. 2016-01-01. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
- "High grade seed replication". Pearce Seeds. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
- Wheat: the big picture Illustrated guide to life cycle of wheat plant