The growing interest in old durum wheat cultivars, due to enhanced consumer attention on healthy, traditional products and low-input agricultural systems, partly relies on their different quality characteristics compared to modern cultivars. Nine Italian durum wheat cultivars from different breeding periods were compared in two late-sown (January) field trials in order to subject their grain filling period to high temperatures similar to those expected in the future. Late sowing moved anthesis forward by about 10 days and increased the mean temperature during grain filling by 1.3 °C compared to that obtained when using the common sowing period of November–December. In these conditions, old cultivars were on average less productive than modern ones (2.36 vs. 3.54 tons ha−1
, respectively), had a higher protein percentage (13.8% vs. 11.1%), a lower gluten index (24.3% vs. 56.3%), and a lower alveographic W (baking strength) (64 vs. 100 J 10−4
). The differences were partly associated to variations in the gliadins:glutenins ratio. It depended on the genotype whether the grain and semolina protein percentage and gluten strength compensated one another in terms of alveographic indices to give the dough a strength similar to that of the modern cultivars in the range of moderately high temperatures, which resulted from delayed sowing. Further studies aimed at exploring the genetic variability of quality traits in the large genetic pool represented by the several Italian old and intermediate durum wheat cultivars still available are therefore advisable.
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