Dual-purpose boon for barley
Barley growers should carefully consider varieties for next spring in the light of new developments, a leading maltster has warned.
Lower demand for malting barley means farmers must adopt a savvy long-term view of the crop, rather than dropping it altogether, suggested Bob King, commercial director of the Crisp Malting Group.
“Global demand for malt for brewing and distilling has fallen significantly below the levels which industry experts predicted before the global economy went into recession and in turn that has reduced demand for malting barley by maltsters from farmers.
“However, in my view these sectors will continue to offer good prospects for professional growers who farm close to a maltings or port facilities and are willing to utilise the latest developments in plant genetics.”
Growing different malting barley varieties to meet the individual requirements of the brewing and distilling sectors was inefficient for both maltsters and farmers, said Mr King. Instead, growers should consider dual-purpose varieties.
“A key to the future success for all sectors of the industry is the availability of modern, dual-purpose varieties which can be used to produce brewing and distilling malt and which are agronomically suitable for both countries.”
The industry has been looking for an Optic replacement for some time. But Concerto was the first true dual-purpose variety from the Nickerson breeding programme with the potential to meet the needs of both sectors, Mr King added.
Mark Glew, senior barley breeder for Nickerson, said: “Prices remain depressed and securing the malting premium is crucial to grower profitability. Whereas all varieties other than Optic are use-specific, Concerto has many potential markets.”
Brewers and distillers liked the extract, while maltsters liked its yield and grain quality. Concerto would also appeal to merchants because they could trade it into different outlets, while farmers liked to grow what they could sell.
The bottom line
Optic has dominated the malting industry for years and while yield has driven variety change, there has been little improvement in quality.
But Concerto is different. It has very high hot water extract, low grain nitrogen and very low levels of glycosidic nitrile. Like Optic, it accumulates grain nitrogen at low levels, making it highly attractive to both the brewing and distilling sectors.
The variety has been well received and up to 5000 tonnes are being used in UK brewing and distilling trials during 2009. A medium-early variety, Concerto combines high yield potential with a good agronomic performance.
Offering good resistance to lodging and brackling, it also has durable resistance to mildew, is similar to Optic in terms of resistance to Rhynchosporium and is superior to Quench in terms of brown rust.