Getting to know the local varieties of Lemnos

Lathyrus of Lemnos: Afkos & Lafyri

Lemnos boasts a wide range of local varieties of cultivated plants (landraces), whose history is lost in time. Although several varieties have become extinct over the years due to the abandonment of their cultivation and the introduction of new, “improved” varieties, some of them survive to this day and are considered important plant genetic resources, the protection of which is crucial.

n the framework of the project “LEMRACE - Conservation of the crop genetic wealth of Lemnos”, MedINA’s team is taking the necessary steps to protect Lemnian varieties and inscribe them in the National Register of Crop Varieties, which is the only institutional way of protecting and saving plant genetic resources in Greece!

Among the species that are being studied and are the subject of LEMRACE are the varieties of lathyrus (lathouri), the plant species from which we make our favorite fava beans!

Cleaning the seeds of afkos (Lathyrus ochrus), one of the two species of lathyrus from which fava beans are made in Lemnos. © D. Sfakianou / MedINA.

According to Bebeli & Thanopoulos (2020), the word fava does not refer to a specific species but to the way of cooking crushed legume seeds, and in many parts of Greece several different species are the basic material: in Mani, fava is made from broad beans (Vicia faba), in parts of the Cyclades from peas (Pisum sativum), while in Skyros, Euboea and Karpathos from the Spanish vetchling (Lathyrus clymenum).

Fava from Lemnian lathyrus. © P. Bebeli / MedINA.

The most famous lathyrus of Lemnos is afkos (Lathyrus ochrus (L.) D.C.), which is sown during the months of November - December.

At the same time, however, fava beans in Lemnos are also made from two varieties of lathyrus (Lathyrus sativus L.), which are less well-known and more sensitive to frosts, being sown in February - March.

Seeds of Lathyrus sativus, the traditional variety of Lemnos, which is characterised by a rich color palette, just before sowing in the field! © P. Pravlis / MedINA.

The cultivation of lathyrus in Lemnos is reported from the 16th century and more recently, in the 1940s, when it was systematically cultivated in several villages, such as Varos, Roussopouli, Romanou, Karpasi, Plaka, Panagia, etc.

The successful inscription of landraces in the National Register is preceded by a series of actions: from the collection of information on the historical presence of each variety, obtained through interviews with elderly residents of the area, to the thorough examination of bibliographical sources and local historical newspapers.

At the same time, information on their traditional way of cultivation and their morphological characteristics is also essential. The latter in particular requires a large number of morphological measurements during all stages of the plant's development, from the appearance of the cotyledons - the first “leaves” of the plant - to the growth of the fruit and the completion of its biological cycle.

Then, in consultation with the competent authorities, a comprehensive file is submitted for the recognition of the local variety and its inscription in the National Register of Crop Varieties of the Ministry of Rural Development & Food.

Lathyrus during flowering in a cultivation in Lemnos. After pollination, the fruit will be produced from the flowers and then harvested for consumption. D. Sfakianou / MedINA.

This not only helps to officially recognise a landrace at institutional level, but also contributes to its popularisation to the general public, creating the conditions for its wider utilisation by farmers to produce quality products with added value, linked to the history and gastronomic tradition of Lemnos.

The project ”LEMRACE – Conservation of the crop genetic wealth of Lemnos: local varieties for sustainable development of the Lemnian food system”, with a budget of €49,750.00, is implemented by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos and the Greek Gene Bank / Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources of ELGO-DIMITRA, in the framework of the funding programme ”NATURAL ENVIRONMENT & INNOVATIVE ACTIONS 2023”, Priority Axis 4: ”INNOVATIVE ACTIONS WITH CITIZENS”. The project belongs to the thematic field “A.4. Protection and Conservation of Biodiversity” and is funded by the Green Fund.

Sources
Bebeli, P.J. and Thanopoulos, R. (editors) 2020. The plant wealth of Lemnos - A source of prosperity for the local community. MedINA, Athens, Greece.


LEMRACE – Development and support of Lemnos’ conservators: Successful 1st action for the production of cereals pure seeds from Lemnian varieties

The project “LEMRACE – Conservation of the plant genetic wealth of Lemnos: local varieties for sustainable development of the Lemnian agrifood system” has begun dynamically on the island of Lemnos, in the place that has been systematically studied for the past 5 years by a plethora of scientists for its rich agrobiodiversity, under the coordination of MedINA. The aim of LEMRACE is to expand the multi-year, systematic efforts for the conservation and utilization of Lemnian landraces, with the first seminar, held on February 29th on the island, focusing on the crucial issue of proper seed production process of cereals.

The main speaker of the seminar was Dr. Ioannis Mylonas, responsible for the production and improvement of cereals, at the Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources of the Hellenic Agricultural Organization-DIMITRA (ELGO-DIMITRA), who informed the audience about the proper seed production practices and, more specifically, addressed the calculation of suitable seed quantity, the preservation of genetic identity, and the purity of traditional varieties, as well as the preparation of machinery, sowing, harvesting, and seed preservation for future cultivation
Rigas Zafeiriou, Programme Manager of Sustainable Food Systems at MedINA, spoke about the multidimensional significance of agrobiodiversity for the rural area of Lemnos, through a brief overview of MedINA’s conservation efforts.

On her part, Dr. Parthenopi Ralli, team leader at the Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources and Coordinator of the Gene Bank of ELGO-DEMITRA, presented the work of the Institute as well as the Greek Gene Bank, focusing on the actions taken so far, with interesting examples of in situ and ex situ conservation of agrobiodiversity in our country.

Finally, Danae Sfakianou, agronomist and Project Manager for LEMRACE, proceeded with the official presentation of the project, analyzing its objectives and individual actions.

Lemnos can now feel proud of its local variety “Krithari Panagias”, a lemnian barley landrace, which has officially been included in the National Catalogue of Cultivated Plant Varieties since 2022, following coordinated efforts by MedINA and local authorities. Efforts to support the agricultural sector on the island continue, focusing on the empowerment of farmers and the production of quality, certified seeds, so that Lemnos can once again become a seed breeding and production center.

The project “LEMRACE – Conservation of the plant genetic wealth of Lemnos: local varieties for sustainable development of the Lemnian agrifood system” is implemented by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedINA) and the Greek Gene Bank / Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources of ELGO-DIMITRA and is funded by the Green Fund.


Workshop on Cereal Seed Production in Lemnos

With great pleasure, MedINA, the Institute of Plant Breeding andGenetic Resources, and the Greek Gene Bank of the Hellenic Agricultural Organisation (ELGO-DIMITRA) invite you to the first training workshop on the conservation of Lemnian landraces, titled "Methods of seed production of traditional cereal landraces of Lemnos," which will take place on February 29th, from 7 to9 pm, at Apothiki in Myrina, Lemnos.

We are delighted to host Dr. Ioannis Mylonas, Lead Researcher of Seed Production and Improvement of Cereals at the Institute of Genetic Improvement and Plant Genetic Resources of ELGO-DIMITRA. With over 20 years of experience in research and improvement of cereals, Dr. Mylonas, holding degrees in Agriculture at the undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral levels, is one of the leading Greek researchers in the field. He has participated in more than 20 research programs and authored over 40 academic publications.

Lemnos is home to a unique agrifood heritage with numerous local landraces. Almost two years after the inscription of the traditional variety "Panagia’s barley" as a "variety for conservation" in the National Register of Crop Varieties, within the framework of the Terra Lemnia project, which wascoordinated by MedINA, a seminar exclusively dedicated to the production of Lemnian cereal seeds aims to further the efforts for the conservation and utilization of this unique resource.

The seminar will address proper agricultural practices that enhance seed production, covering the calculation of the appropriate quantity of sowing seed and the correct preparation of fields for seed production. The importance of preserving genetic identity and purity of landraces will be at the center of the seminar, along with the examination of the proper preparation of machinery related to seeding, cultivation, and harvesting. Additionally, we will explore the significance of proper seed preservation (post-harvest handling).

This seminar is part of MedINA's new project "LEMRACE – Safeguarding Lemnian Landraces" and is the first in a series of workshops for the conservation, promotion, and utilization of Lemnian traditional varieties of cultivated plants. Participation in all workshops is free of charge.

Together, we safeguard Lemnos' agricultural genetic heritage, creating iconic products of added value!

The project "Conservation of the Genetic Wealth of Lemnos: Local Varieties for Sustainable Development of the Lemnian Agrifood System" is implemented by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos and the Institute of Plant Breeding & Genetic Resources (IGB&PGPR) of ELGO-DIMITRA, funded by the Green Fund.


LEMRACE: The new project for the local landraces of Lemnos has started with its own website and logo

MedINA is actively initiating the implementation of the LEMRACE project, with the first actions already planned.The objective of the project is the safeguarding of the agricultural genetic heritage of Lemnos through the conservation and utilization of the island's local landraces.

Following the creation of the logo, LEMRACE now has its own website! Everyone interested can now get extensive updates on all information related to the project, actions, and news through https://lemrace.med-ina.org, in a user-friendly environment with easy navigation.

The LEMRACE project is detailed on the website, highlighting MedINA's commitment to a healthy, sustainable, and resilient food system on Lemnos. The website was created by IkarianMEDIA, MedINA’s longterm partner.

The website serves as a catalyst to announce the first seed production seminar, which will be implemented on the island of Lemnos as part of the project's second action: Development and Educational Support of a network of seed guardians on Lemnos . Detailed information and an open invitation for anyone interested will follow in the coming days.

MedINA's work continues with the aim of valorising the island's landraces with their unique characteristics and creating iconic food products of added value!

The project " LEMRACE – Conservation of the crop genetic wealth of Lemnos: local varieties for sustainable development of the Lemnian food system " is implemented by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos and the Institute of Genetics & Plant Genetic Resources (IGBPR) of ELGO-DIMITRA and is funded by the Green Fund.


The project LEMRACE gets its own identity!

LEMRACE… like LEMNOS (Λήμνος) and LANDRACE (local variety)! The new project by MedINA, “LEMRACE” paves the way aiming to strengthen the agricultural genetic heritage of Lemnos and focusing on the conservation and capitalisation of the island’s local crop varieties.

The actions that will follow within the project are numerous and equally interesting, always with the goal of enhancing our phytogenetic and envisioning a healthy and sustainable agri-food system on Lemnos.

The MedINA team is working intensively for the best possible implementation of the project at all levels, starting with the creation of the project’s logo, which expresses and what the project represents: the simplicity of nature nature and our land, and the power hidden in the tiniest of seeds , for a sustainable agri-food future!

The logo was created by the PRODUCTIVE LAND team, whom we sincerely thank for their excellent collaboration and support!

This is just the beginning! Stay tuned because soon we will launch the LEMRACE website and initiate the numerous planned actions to leverage the treasure of local crop varieties and their unique characteristics aiming to creating landmarks of added value!

The project “LEMRACE – Conservation of the plant genetic wealth of Lemnos: local varieties for sustainable development of the Lemnian agri-food system”, with a budget of €49,750.00, is implemented by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos and the Greek Gene Bank / Institute of Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources of ELGO-DIMITRA, in the framework of the funding programme “NATURAL ENVIRONMENT & INNOVATIVE ACTIONS 2023”, Priority Axis 4: “INNOVATIVE ACTIONS WITH CITIZENS”. The project belongs to the thematic field “A.4. Protection and Conservation of Biodiversity” and is funded by the Green Fund.