Attainment of the goal of improved malting barley varieties involves both basic and applied research in biochemistry, breeding, cytogenetics, entomology, genetics, molecular biology, pathology, physiology, and production. AMBA make grants averaging $700,000 per year to state and federal research facilities for the support of malting barley research programs in ten states: California, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin. This substantial industry support augments state and federal funds allocated for barley research.
The core of AMBA's research program is applied barley breeding and related support programs, including basic research. The basic research program is designed to take advantage of new developments in biotechnology, so that they can be applied to barley variety development.
In the Midwest (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota), most growers plant barley for the malting market and the acreage is dominated by six-row malting barley varieties. AMBA's major goal is the development of six-row varieties that combine desired quality with agronomics better than currently grown varieties, such Robust and Stander. AMBA is also providing support to North Dakota State University to develop two-row malting barley varieties for Midwest production and use by the domestic brewing industry and the malt export market.
In the West (California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming), the primary market for barley is the feed industry and over half the acreage is seeded to feed varieties. AMBA's objectives in the West are the development of improved malting two-row and six-row varieties that will displace feed barley acreage. AMBA also maintains modest support of winter malting barley varietal development, primarily at Oregon State University.
Significant progress has been realized in the improvement of malting barley varieties as a result of the collaborative efforts of state and federal research facilities and the malting and brewing industry.
From 1959 to the present, acreage in the Midwest has been dominated by six-rowed malting varieties of the Manchurian type. Two-rowed varieties are also grown.
Malting barley acreage in the West continues to be a mixture of six-rowed and two-rowed types, with the two-rowed types dominating. Early in the period from 1959 to the present, two-rowed barley were introduced from Europe and six-rowed barleys were of the Coast type or varieties originally developed for the Midwest. Current two-rowed acreage is seeded to better adapted types released in the US and Canada. Most six-rowed acreage in the West is now seeded to the Midwest varieties and some western bred six-rowed barleys.
AMBA's research program also addresses threats posed to the barley crop by fungal, viral, and insect pests. These pests have the potential to greatly reduce the supply of quality malting barley. AMBA has effective programs in place to counter current significant threats to the barley crop such as Fusarium head blight (scab), stripe rust, and the Russian Wheat Aphid. Sources of genetic resistance to these pests have been found and are being incorporated into US barley breeding programs to produce resistant varieties.
AMBA takes pride in its role in launching and supporting the North American Barley Genome Mapping Project (NABGMP). Significant progress has been made in meeting the objective of constructing a molecular map of important genes and quantitative trait loci (QTL). With genes of economic importance mapped to precise locations on chromosomes using molecular markers, the North American barley breeding and genetics research community can proceed with a program of breeding by design. The tremendous success of this project is due to the outstanding cooperative efforts of over 30 scientists in the US and joint financial support of industry, barley producers, and federal and state agencies. The project also includes a cooperative effort with over 20 Canadian scientists. The project is now applying mapping tools to barley breeding, with the focus on threats to production, such as diseases, and the determination of the genetic basis of key grain quality (value-added) traits, such as malting quality.