Grant awarded to develop winter malting barley cultivars in the Great Plains region

The Brewers Association has awarded four regional small grains breeders and geneticists with a grant to develop winter malting barley cultivars adapted to the Great Plains. The hope is to develop a new region for national maltsters to purchase malting barley.

It would also provide a local source for regional craft brewers. The goal is to bring barley production back to the lower Great Plains.

The researchers include P. Stephen Baenziger, University of Nebraska professor of agronomy and horticulture and Nebraska Wheat Growers presidential chair; Dipak Santra, associate professor of crop breeding and genetics at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff; Guorong Zhang, assistant professor and breeder at the Agricultural Research Center, Kansas State University in Hays, Kan.; and Dolores “Do” Mornhinweg, research geneticist with the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, at Oklahoma State University.

Barley is one of the world’s oldest cultivated cereal grains and is used commercially to produce malt for beer production, for animal feed as a grain and as forage, for seed and for human food consumption. According to the 2016 National Barley Improvement Committee, 65 percent of the U.S.-grown barley crop is consumed by brewers. Malting barley has the highest value grain, hence is considered as a key value added product.

Barley adapts well to different types of environments and is grown in many regions throughout the United States and globally. Due to Fusarium head blight or scab, some regions are less able to grow the high quality barley needed for malting, so new regions for barley production are needed. Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma are less affected by scab due to their drier climate and are considered emerging areas to source grain for the malting and brewing industry.

The University of Nebraska and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Stillwater, Okla., have a long history of nearly 100 years of barley research, mainly for feed and forage. This extensive experience allows them to now work on developing winter malting barley cultivars for the Great Plains.

Funding is provided for one year with subsequent renewal dependent on research progress.

The Brewers Association is an organization of brewers, for brewers and by brewers. More than 3,500 US brewery members and 46,000 members of the American Homebrewers Association are joined by members of the allied trade, beer distributors, individuals, other associate members and the Brewers Association staff to make up the Brewers Association.