Are cover crops with wheat dangerous for those with Celiac disease?

Asked October 14, 2018, 12:12 AM EDT

Hi there, I'm a pretty new gardener and I recently planted a cover crop mix in my raised beds. My cousin asked me if it was safe planting wheat when my husband (who eats the veggies from the beds) has Celiac disease. Honestly, I didn't realize that triticale was a mix of wheat and rye. The mix I used has organic triticale, Austrian winter peas, small-seeded fava, annual ryegrass, and crimson clover. I've read some contradicting information for this as to whether or not gluten would get into the soil and whether or not it could be passed on to future plants. One person online advised to cut or till the cover crops before they go to seed and it should be fine. My husband is highly sensitive, and now I'm concerned. Do you have any information you can share on this topic? Thank you for your time!

Multnomah County Oregon

1 Response

Thank you for your question. As you can imagine, this topic may be beyond the scope of the Extension Service, since it involves a medical approach to diet and precautions taken to avoid ingestion of plant material containing gluten. The Celiac Disease Foundation (https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/understanding-celiac-disease-2/what-is-celiac-disease/) indicates that:

"Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. People living gluten-free must avoid foods with wheat, rye and barley, such as bread and beer. Ingesting small amounts of gluten, like crumbs from a cutting board or toaster, can trigger small intestine damage."

Of the cover crops you listed, those containing gluten include triticale and rye (http://www.agronomy.k-state.edu/documents/eupdates/eupdate091710.pdf).

I have been unable to find any research-based authority indicating that the cover crops containing gluten, if not specifically ingested, transfer that gluten to subsequent plantings. Once the cover crop has been tilled under or pulled, there's nothing to indicate the gluten remains in the soil. If you have run across literature from science-based sources, I would like to review them. Please let me know what other input you've had so I can investigate them. Thanks!