Malting barley continues to be a popular rotational choice for crop producers in the upper Midwest, while forage barleys are popular among livestock producers.
According to Montana State University, barley can break disease, insect, and weed cycles associated with other crops.
In Montana, the second leading public sector malting barley grown in 2012 was the two-row variety Hockett, according to Tom Blake, MSU barley breeder. Blake said new, two-row malting barley varieties are gaining more acceptance by the brewing companies who have seen acres lost to other crops in the eastern regions of North Dakota and in Minnesota.
Hockett went from 50,000 acres in 2011 to 125,000 acres in 2012. It made malting barley specifications about 75 percent of the time while the variety Harrington made malting specs about 50 percent of the time, according to Blake.
“The only public sector barley that exceeds Hockett in acreage is Lacey,” he said. The variety AC Metcalfe from Canada captures the most acreage in Montana, while in North Dakota, Tradition, a six-row variety, is number one.
Lacey is a six-rowed barley released by the University of Minnesota 11 years ago. In North Dakota, Lacey is the second most popular variety with 20.2 percent of the total acres planted and is popular with Anheuser Busch in North Dakota, according to Rich Horsley, North Dakota State University barley breeder. This six-row barley is characterized by its medium-short height, strong straw strength, and medium relative maturity.
Hockett, while popular in Montana, was only grown on about 2,800 acres this year in North Dakota, with most of it in the north central region of the state.
Blake said Hockett retains kernel size and weight even under drought stress and that distinguishes it from other two-rowed varieties. He said when he took over as barley breeder in 1994, he traveled around the state and was cautioned by producers to pay close attention to barley quality.
“Montana has made its living on grain quality,” Blake said.
At that time, when two-rowed barleys were put under drought stress, their quality went down and protein went up, he said.
Hockett holds up substantially better on dryland acres under drought conditions such as was experienced this summer than most other public sector competitors, he added.
“Yet the main reason Hockett was rejected by some malt buyers is its protein got over 13.5 percent,” he said.
Researchers discovered a gene from an exotic variety of barley that drops grain percentage by 1.2-1.3 percent, Blake noted. It is being used in 15 experimental varieties that have derivatives of Hockett in them, and MSU is deciding on which one of them to release to help producers in dryland areas that need to keep the protein percentage lower.
“High protein grain tends to be low starch grain and the brewers don’t like that because with less starch, you make less beer,” he said.
The malting barley variety Tradition, contracted by Busch Ag, is the most widely grown six-row variety in both eastern Montana and North Dakota and has done well in both states, Blake said. However, it is beginning to be replaced by the six-row variety Celebration.
“Tradition is a pretty good variety as long as you have water,” he said.
In North Dakota, Tradition accounts for 47 percent of the 1.14 million acres compared with 53.3 percent in 2011 and 42.0 percent in 2010.
According to Horsley, Celebration is a new variety from Busch Ag with better yields than Tradition. However, when it is hot and dry, Celebration’s protein levels can go higher.
“If you grow Celebration, soil test to make sure you don’t have excess nitrogen,” he said.
MSU has both Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors breeding programs, and both have been collaborating well with the university, he said. MSU and NDSU also test for Malt Europe which has its own breeding programs with stations in France and New Zealand. Malt Europe is aggressively contracting in the two states, Blake said.
“They are really doing the process of developing barleys very legitimately,” he added.
Horsley said NDSU has been evaluating European varieties and breeding lines from several European companies for adaptation in North Dakota and Sidney, in eastern Montana. Named varieties tested include Scarlett, JB Flavour, JB Umbrella, JB Mary, Marnie, Isotta, Jenuva, Anaconda, Posada, and Grace.
In general, many of these varieties are competitive in yield with Conlon, but can have lower yields and fewer plump kernels under the dry conditions often experienced in western North Dakota and eastern Montana, Horsley said.
Blake said Scarlett is one of those European varieties growing in trials at Sidney.
“Scarlett is their first variety that came out. It does remarkably poor in dry conditions. Put it under irrigation and it does just fine,” Blake said, adding that Expedition is a similar variety.
“We had reports of producers in Montana getting 180 bushels per acre under irrigation with Expedition which is spectacular, but put it on dryland and you have problems,” Blake said.
Most of the malting barley grown in North Dakota is grown under contract, according to Horsley.
“It can be pretty tough to sell barley without a contract,” Horsley said.
He suggested malting barley producers always talk to the barley buyers and see what they are buying before selecting a variety to grow for 2013.
Maltsters do change their minds and Conlon, a two-row variety, was popular with MillerCoors for a few years, Horsley said. However, Conlon was found to be too plump and didn’t mix well with other varieties.
Conlon is a two rowed variety developed by NDSU with medium height and slightly weaker straw than Bowman, but matures one to two days earlier and produces a higher test weight than Bowman. It has high resistance to net blotch, and is susceptible to spot blotch and Fusarium head blight, according to NDSU.
Pinnacle, a new two-row variety from NDSU, is demonstrating high grain yields, a plump seed, lower protein levels and some drought resistance, Horsley said. It had lower protein than Metcalfe in trials, and had 40 percent less DON (vomitoxin) than Robust, a widely planted variety in Minnesota, according to AMBA.
Based on four years of trials in North Dakota by the NDSU barley breeding program, Pinnacle has a 15 percent yield advantage over Conlon. Pinnacle heads out about three days later than Conlon, but has greater straw strength than Conlon and approaches that of the strongest six-rowed varieties.
“Maltsters want protein 13 percent or lower, but they are still figuring out how to use Pinnacle because sometimes the protein can be too low,” Horsley said. “But growers like it because it maintains yield under dry or wet conditions.”
Blake also spoke about feed barleys and said Cowboy was recently released out of Saskatoon, Canada.
“Its advantage is it is half a foot taller than anything else you will see,” Blake said. “We’ll know more about its yield after this season.”
Champion and Haxby are two other feed barleys that have been very good for livestock feed, he said.
Champion, from WestBred is a two-rowed hulled spring variety barley, and was the second most common Montana feed barley variety in 2012. Montana growers planted 7,700 acres, accounting for 0.9 percent of the 2012 planted acres. Champion has fair to good resistance to lodging and shattering. It also shows strength to neck breaking and drought, Blake said.
Haxby remained the top feed barley variety planted for feed in 2012 for the sixth year in a row, according to MSU. Producers planted 79,300 acres in 2012 – up from 60,800 in 2011. This variety accounts for 8.8 percent of the total barley acres planted in Montana.
“Haxby is a two-rowed barley developed by MSU, and yields are equal to Baronesse and Eslick and are higher than Gallatin and Valier varieties,” he said.
It is medium height and maturity, and has superior performance in low moisture conditions, and has high test weights in both dryland and irrigated areas.
According to Blake, Haybet has been the top forage barley variety seeded for the past 13 years in Montana and North Dakota. Montana farmers planted 83,500 acres, accounting for 9.3 percent of the total acres seeded in 2012. It was developed cooperatively by the Agricultural Research Service, USDA, and the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station in 1989. It is a two-rowed, hooded, white-kernel spring hay barley. Compared to Horsford hay barley, Haybet is 3 days later in heading and similar in plant height and percent lodging. Haybet is higher in hay yield than Horsford.
Hays is third among other varieties and was planted to 4,700 acres in 2012. This two-row hooded barley was developed by Montana State University and was released in 2003 as a hay barley.
Hays is the second most common forage barley variety planted in 2012 with 12,800 acres or 1.4 percent of the total barley planted. It is a cross between Haybet and Baronesse varieties. Forage yields are similar to Haybet and higher than Westford. Hays is about three inches shorter and heads two days later than Haybet, however, the two varieties have similar test weights.
MSU has not ignored food barleys and is getting ready to release a food variety soon, according to Blake. Both high and low fiber varieties and hull-less, high-yielding varieties could be released.
“If any of you grow swine or poultry, I think we will have a variety for you,” Blake said.