Tips on Planting Spelt

Spelt (Triticum aestivum) is a subspecies of wheat that is mostly used to feed livestock and animals in place of barley or oats. It can be substituted for soft winter wheat to make flour, and is used to make high-fiber cereal. Hulls remain on the grain as they do with oats and account for 20 to 30 percent of the weight of the grain. Most spelt is grown in Ohio. It is fairly simple to plant spelt.


Spelt grows well in sandy Midwestern soils and will grow in soils that have low fertility and are poorly grain.

Seed Varieties

In 1986, Ohio State University released Champ, a hybrid variety of spelt with brown hulls. Champ spelt lacks the awns found on common spelt; awns are the sharp points or bristles at the end of some grasses and grains. Champ resists leaf rust; it it only moderately resists powdery mildew. It is shorter than common spelt, but its straws are stronger. Both Champ and common spelt are winter grains. Emmer, another hulled winter wheat, is sometimes incorrectly called spelt. Spelt generally lodges (flattens) less than soft red wheat; it lodges more than winter wheat or semi-dwarf hard red spring wheat. Grain straws that lodge under their own weight, or because of wind or heavy rain, are impossible to harvest.

Seed Preparation

Germination for smelt seeds is slower than for wheat because the hulls are attached. Clean and test the seeds before you plant them


Horticulturalists at Purdue University recommend using a combination drill to apply fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium when you sow spelt seed. Since spelt straw is tall, excess nitrogen can cause lodging. Apply 50 to 60 lbs. per acre of nitrogen, 25 lbs. per acre of phosphorus and 30 lbs. per acre of potassium.


Seed about 1 inch deep. Cornell University recommends sowing spelt seed at the rate of 80 lbs. per acre. If you want to suppress weeds, increase this amount by 30 percent; if you are seeding late, increase the amount by 50 to 100 percent.

Diseases and Insects

Spelt is susceptible to bunt, also called stinking smut.Treat seeds with a fungicide to resist smut before planting. Cornell University recommends treating spelt and wheat seeds with a fungicide containing copper sulfate before planting. Like wheat, spelt is susceptible to the hessian fly.

Keywords: planting spelt, growing spelt, sowing spelt

About this Author

Richard Hoyt, the author of 26 mysteries, thrillers and other novels, is a former reporter for Honolulu dailies and writer for "Newsweek" magazine. He taught nonfiction writing and journalism at the university level for 10 years. He holds a Ph.D. in American studies.