Which management factors affect malting barley quality?

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Agriculture Canada researchers are looking at whether good malting variety is just a combination of the right variety and good luck with the weather.

At a recent field day here, Kelly Turkington, a plant pathologist at the Field Crop Development Centre, outlined research done by John O’Donovan, a research scientist at Agriculture Canada in Lacombe.

Researchers are in a second round of trials examining factors that affect malt barley quality and productivity.

In the first round of trials, they tested seeding dates and rates, fertility rates, stubble type and nitrogen rates. When embarking on these trials, researchers didn’t have an idea of how practical parameters that can be manipulated by producers would impact the malt quality of barley. O’Donovan found an increased seeding rate improved a number of malt quality parameters including lower protein, lower beta-glucan and a better modification of the barley.

Turkington explained how these parameters are important to the maltsters. Uniformity is important in the malt house. The process of malting breaks down the cell walls in the barley kernel. Maltsters want all the modifications to the cell walls to happen at the same rate, so all the barley in the malt house is ready to be kilned at the same time.

Increased seeding rates were found to improve seed uniformity. There was a slight reduction in plumpness, which may be a bit of a change in mindset for growers and buyers. “Plump barley doesn’t necessarily always translate into better malt barley and malt quality,” said Turkington.

Higher rates of nitrogen caused a yield benefit, but had a detrimental effect on protein levels and extract and creating more variability. The results varied depending on the type of malting barley grown. In this particular trial, O’Donovan was looking at AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland and found CDC Copeland was more able to adjust to higher nitrogen levels without compromising malt quality.

In another trial, researchers tested five varieties using five different rates of nitrogen (zero kg per hectare, 30 kg, 60, 90 and 120 kg per hectare). All five varieties were seeded at 300 seeds per metre squared. Varieties tested in the trial included AC Metcalfe, CDC Meredith, Merit, Bentley and Major. All varieties yielded better than AC Metcalfe, an older variety. “The breeders are making a significant impact with the new varieties in terms of productivity,” said Turkington.

The trial was conducted at a number of sites across Western Canada, from the Peace River region to Brandon, Manitoba. “We’re looking at these varieties not only in terms of productivity, but also in their ability to produce good malt barley for the maltsters and the brewers,” said Turkington.

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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