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Priorities for barley growers and industry

By Staff | Dec 28, 2012

Accelerating research to release higher yielding, disease resistant barley varieties was a key message at a crowded pre-Prairie Grains Conference Meeting for Minnesota and North Dakota barley growers and industry partners. The invited speakers included NDSU barley pathologist Dr. Robert Brueggeman, Anheuser-Busch Director of Raw Materials Mr. Ralph Judd, Mr. Paul Kramer from Rahr Malting Company, Mr. Derek Prell from Malteurop North America and University of Minnesota barley breeder Dr. Kevin Smith.

For researchers, higher yielding and disease resistant varieties are top priority. Kevin Smith’s research program at the University of Minnesota has resulted in the release of the Fusarium head blight resistant variety Quest. Seed availability problems have been solved and industry is gearing up to fit Quest into brewing blends. Smith also runs a winter barley variety research program which could result in high yielding winter barley varieties for Minnesota and North Dakota. Smith has been working on the winter barley project for 4 years and is starting to see a few varieties that show promise in northern U.S. climates.

Bob Brueggeman talked about fast-tracking disease resistant barley varieties. His research has benefitted from a huge jump in genomic sequencing efficiencies. New equipment in his lab has cut the time needed to sequence pathogen genomes from 2 years to 3 days, enabling him to screen huge numbers of pathogens and barley varieties for possible resistance.

Moving new varieties into brewing blends at a faster pace is a top priority at Anheuser-Busch, according to Ralph Judd. However, he cautioned that malting quality is still a priority and new varieties must have quality at least equal to those currently used. Paul Kramer of Rahr is optimistic that malting and brewing industry demand for barley will slowly but steadily increase in the next 10 years. He says there is a “pot of gold at the end of the beer store” and is optimistic about the growth of the craft brewing industry. According to Kramer, craft brewing makes up 6 to 7 percent of the beer market and 10 to 11 percent of the malt market. He said that industry needs to make sure there are varieties available that craft brewers want. Derek Prell gave a global barley and malt market snapshot and believes that North American barley supply and demand is mature and stable.

The meeting was organized by the Minnesota Barley Growers Association and the North Dakota Barley Council.

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