Maintaining malting barley quality at harvest

Despite late planting and a cool spring, the malting barley harvest is underway and initial quality and yield reports are favorable. “Growers are pressing hard to get the crop out of the field between weather events, but early harvest results also reflect test weights in the 49-53 pounds per bushel range,” reported Wade Malchow, Barley Program Manager at Molson Coors Beverage Company. Malchow also serves as the chair of the Agriculture Policy committee for the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA). 

Late planting, however, can lead to a later and often more prolonged dry down and harvest period. “In recent years, the industry has seen an increase in barley harvested at higher moisture levels, especially in the more humid Midwest growing region. The lateness of this season could exacerbate that issue,” shared Scott Heisel, president of AMBA.  AMBA is an agricultural trade association that represents end-users of malting barley whose mission is focused on ensuring a sustainable and high-quality supply of domestic malting barley for their membership.

Drying of malting barley must be done with great care as the malting process requires barley with a high percentage of vigorously germinating kernels to produce the quality of malt needed for the brewing, distilling, and food industries. Heisel commented, “Growers have a lot invested in their crop, and a little extra care at harvest time will ensure they meet malting specifications.” AMBA partnered with North Dakota State University and the Institute for Barley and Malt Sciences on the publication: Harvesting, Drying, and Storing Malting Barley, which outlines best practices for post-harvest handling of malting barley to ensure quality. As outlined in the publication, malting barley should be dried without added heat, but if heating must be used, the air should be no warmer than 100°F. Consulting with your barley purchaser on preferred post-harvest handling procedures is also recommended.  

AMBA receives supplemental funding to increase research investment

The American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) each year directs member investment into a research grant program supporting its mission to encourage and support production of an adequate supply of high quality malting barley for the malting, brewing, distilling and food industries. Much of the work funded seeks to develop new, more competitive malting barley varieties, and to develop a better understanding of how to manage the crop to yield high quality. 

Industry leaders recognize the importance of AMBA’s investment, and we are excited to share two examples of how supplemental funding has been secured to further support our mission.

  • Proximity Malt has pledged $5,100; they, along with other brewing friends and partners, have secured funds through the Dave Kuske Memorial Fund to be directed towards the barley breeding program at Virginia Tech. 
  • Bell’s/New Belgium Brewing Co. and the Michigan Brewers Guild each pledged $1,000; to be directed to the barley research program at Michigan State University. 

If you have interest in making an investment in malting barley research, reach out to Ashley to learn how to leverage our grant program to make that happen.

Registration now open for joint barley research conference in Davis, California

The planning committee of the joint 23rd North American Barley Research Workshop and 43rd Barley Improvement Conference is excited to welcome the barley research community to Davis, California, September 22nd-24th. The robust program features a diverse slate of seminars, panels, and posters and features two pre-workshop opportunities to get hands-on experience with the malting and brewing processes. Register now at the conference website. Early-bird pricing ends July 31st. 

The program will be kicked off with an industry panel, featuring both Canadian and U.S. contributors. Planned technical sessions cover topics such as plant breeding, the evolution of barley production, abiotic and biotic stressors, agronomy, hulless barley, and barley quality. The first day will conclude with a happy hour and poster session, and the second day will wrap up with a dinner, featuring guest speaker Dr. Michael Davis, retired president of the American Malting Barley Association and former executive secretary of the National Barley Improvement Committee. 

In conjunction with the conference, the Craft Maltsters Guild is hosting their 2nd annual Malt for Brewers and Distillers Workshop. This two-day, in-person course is custom-tailored for craft malt beverage producers and provides an extensive overview of technical malt knowledge from farm to fermenter. Maltsters and farmers will also find the workshop a valuable opportunity to learn to better communicate with their brewery and distillery clients. Hands-on activities and tours of the UC Davis Brewing Program pilot brewery, as well as a local craft maltster, Admiral Maltings in Alameda, CA, will also be part of the experience. Visit the event website to learn more about the workshop and to register. 

Additionally, conference co-host, Dr. Glen Fox, Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at UC-Davis, welcomes attendees to participate in a one-day brewing course on September 21st, targeting early-career barley professionals. This course will provide participants a very hands-on experience in practical brewing. This day is limited to first 16 participants to register. Please contact Glen to get the discount code.  

For any questions regarding the program, reach out to co-host Dr. Harmonie Bettenhausen, Director of the Center for Craft Food and Beverage at Hartwick College. Questions regarding registration can be directed to Dr. Glen Fox. We look forward to hosting you in Davis! Register by July 31st for early-bird pricing. 

First barley production report of 2022 released

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released their July 12, 2022 Crop Production Report. Much of the data is based on initial estimates and forecasts and does not report all barley production states. Individual state level estimates will be published in the Small Grains 2022 Summary.  

Production is forecast at 175 million bushels, up 49 percent from 2021. Based on conditions as of July 1, the average yield for the United States is forecast at 73.0 bushels per acre, up 12.6 bushels from last year. Area harvested for grain or seed, at 2.40 million acres is unchanged from the Acreage report released on June 30, 2022, but up 23 percent from 2021. A record high yield is expected in Idaho.  

Nationwide, 97 percent of the barley acreage was sown by June 12, three percentage points behind last year and 2 percentage points behind the 5-year average. Ninety-six percent of the barley acreage had emerged by June 19, two percentage points behind last year but equal to the 5-year average. Heading of the Nation’s barley acreage advanced to 19 percent complete by June 26, twenty-one percentage points behind the previous year and 12 percentage points behind the 5-year average. Overall, 53 percent of the barley acreage was reported in good to excellent condition on June 26, compared to 31 percent at the same time last year. 

You can access the July 12, 2022 USDA NASS Crop Production Report; along with other historical acreage, production, and stock reports, from the AMBA website

You can find additional barley data at the NASS website

American Malting Barley Association releases new logo and branding strategy

The American Malting Barley Association (AMBA), a trade organization representing end users of malting barley including maltsters, brewers, and distillers, has released their new logo after a branding refresh process led by vice president and technical director, Ashley McFarland, who came to the organization last October. The existing logo had been virtually unchanged for nearly 40 years and was indicative of the founding roots of the organization. 

At a quick glance, the golden six-row barley head is what was most identifiable about the old logo, but what many did not realize is that the barley head was set in a pilsner glass shaped background. The nod to the brewing industry and its role in the organization’s history at the time was appropriate, but as AMBA seeks to diversify its membership, specifically bringing on more distillers, it was necessary to broaden the relevance of the image to ensure inclusiveness. 

That led McFarland to work with AMBA’s Communication and Membership committee to reimagine a logo that was very intentional in its focus on the malting barley itself – for all end users. Part of that process was to commission the illustration of a new two-row barley head that was both technically accurate and functional from a design perspective. The decision was made to also pivot from the previous color palette to a more natural green, but with a more vintage feel on the font choice. Scott Heisel, AMBA’s president, speaks favorably of the new image, “AMBA’s new Communication and Membership Committee enthusiastically endorsed a refreshed logo that worked with today’s wide variety of media. Ashley did an outstanding job of incorporating the Committee’s input into this versatile logo and I am looking forward to hearing what others think of the design.”

Thank you to everyone from the committee to the Board that provided feedback and support throughout the process. The new logo will be gradually implemented throughout all AMBA communication channels, including correspondence, reports, website, and social media.

AMBA announces grant recipients

The American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) research grant program is directed at meeting its mission to encourage and support an adequate supply of high quality malting barley for the malting, brewing, distilling, and food industries and to increase our understanding of malting barley. AMBA’s direct investment, supported by member dues, 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. Other support is provided for research projects on diseases, insect pests, variety evaluation, production, management, and malting quality. 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 industry partners. At the same time, there is always the need for new varieties that reduce the risk to the grower, provide improved quality characteristics to the end-user, and remain competitive with other crop options.

AMBA is proud to announce the newly awarded slate of projects, which features some new collaborators and provides continued support for many of the public barley breeders. You can read more about the AMBA research grant program at their website

Brian Steffenson University of Minnesota Investigations on barley diseases and their control and development of two-rowed malting barley germplasm with low temperature tolerance
Carl Duley University of Wisconsin Sustainable western Wisconsin malting barley production 
Brook Wilke, James DeDecker, Monica Jean Michigan State University Improving resilience of U.S. barley production through winter barley in the Great Lakes Region
Do Mornhinweg USDA-ARS, Stillwater Aphid-resistant malting barley germplasm enhancement and evaluation
Eric Stockinger Ohio State University, Wooster Winter growth habit recombinant inbred line populations for breeding winter-hardy, lodging-resistant malting barley – developing and crossing advanced selections
Glen Fox University of California-Davis Effect of genotype and environment on the starch gelatinization and malting quality of Californian winter barley
Heather Darby University of Vermont Northeast malting barley evaluation and production
Isabel Alicia del Blanco, Jorge Dubcovsky, Allison Krill-Brown UC-Davis Development of two-row spring malting barley
Jamie Sherman, Hannah Estabrooks, Greg Lutgen Montana State University Barley breeding for Montana: Ensuring a stable malt supply with new traits to improve quality
Jared Spackman University of Idaho Irrigated spring malt barley yield, grain quality, and malt quality response to nitrogen and sulfur fertilization
Jonathan Jacobs Ohio State University, Columbus Fortifying U.S. barley production against Bacterial Leaf Streak disease
Katherine Frels University of Nebraska Winter-hardy 2-row malting barley cultivar development for the great plains
Kevin Smith University of Minnesota Two-row barley improvement — University of Minnesota
Margaret Krause Utah State University Winter malting barley for Utah: dryland vs. irrigated
Nicholas Santantonio Virginia Tech Development of two-row winter malt barley cultivars for the eastern U.S.
Pat Hayes Oregon State University Optimizing malting quality, disease resistance, and low temperature tolerance via accelerated development of two-row winter and facultative malting barley varieties 
Rich Horsley North Dakota State University Breeding and genetics of two-rowed malting barley
Robert Brueggeman Washington State University Developing two-row malting varieties for the Pacific Northwest
Ruth Dill-Macky University of Minnesota Management and epidemiology of barley diseases
Tom Baldwin North Dakota State University Management and innovative research on economically important barley diseases
Zack Bateson, M. Oneil National Agricultural Genotyping Center Improving the discriminatory power of varietal identification and certification tests of barley
Zhaohui Liu North Dakota State University Identification of Bacterial Leaf Streak susceptibility genes in barley through RNA sequencing

Barley acreage seeded up 15% from 2021, stocks down

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released their acreage and grain stocks reports today, which revealed a 15% increase in planted acreage (3.05 million acres) over 2021. Acreage increases were realized in each of the top three growing states; Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. 

Despite a late start to planting due to a wet and cool spring throughout some of the barley growing region, crop development has made substantial progress, only slightly behind the 5-year average. Approximately 56% of barley production is within an area experiencing drought, a substantial improvement through the spring that brought precipitation to both Idaho and North Dakota. 

Barley stocks continue to decline, totaling 42.2 million bushels in all positions, down 41% from June 2021. 

You can access the June 30, 2022 USDA NASS barley acreage and stock reports; along with other historical acreage, production, and stock reports, from the AMBA website

You can find additional barley data at the NASS website

Biotech & Barley: webinar recording now available

The recording for the webinar recently hosted by the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA), Biotech & Barley, is now available for viewing. This webinar covered an overview of the history of plant breeding through today, including the latest advancements in gene editing. Dr. Jason Walling, research geneticist at the USDA-ARS Cereal Crops Research Unit and director of the Barley Malt Quality Lab, provided specific case studies on how these technologies are being applied in barley and other cereal crops. Dr. Fan-Li Chou, vice president for scientific affairs and policy at the American Seed Trade Association, dove a bit deeper into the regulatory frameworks that overlay these technologies, both domestically and internationally. The webinar concluded with a live Q&A session, which is included in the recording. 

View the recording here

Access Dr. Fan-Li Chou’s slides

Access Dr. Jason Walling’s slides

Helpful links from the webinar:

Potential for improved infrastructure at the Cereal Disease Lab gets support from U.S. Representative McCollum

The National Barley Improvement Committee (NBIC), which represents the U.S. barley community of growers, researchers, processors, users, and allied industries, would like to thank Representative McCollum for her acknowledgement of the important role the cereal grain industry plays in Minnesota and throughout the region through her Community Project Funding request for the planning and design of a new Cereal Disease Laboratory (CDL). The CDL is based in St. Paul Minnesota, which is within McCollum’s home 4th district. The USDA Agricultural Research Service CDL has long been a hub of barley related research. Most recently, work there on various rust diseases and fusarium head blight have been supported through the Barley Pest Initiative and the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, respectively. Unfortunately, despite the increase in federal investment in research, the infrastructure housing the cooperating scientists has run out of room and is limiting expansion of additional work. 

Rep. McCollum submitted a Community Project Funding request for FY23 through the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations process on behalf of the University of Minnesota, the home of the CDL and potential partner for a new facility. The request of $8 million is to support the planning and design phase of a new facility. 

Full request found here:

The funding would be used for the planning and design phase of a new next generation Cereal Disease Laboratory facility in St. Paul, MN. As the premier cereal disease research laboratory, these investments are critical if we are to continue making gains in addressing new and emerging highly pathogenic strains in wheat, or mycotoxins in corn, that not only destroy crops but cause illness and death in livestock and humans consuming the infected grain. With the complexities of our changing environment coupled with increased vulnerability to the global food supply, access to new cutting-edge technical capabilities is needed to take on growing challenges in cereal disease.

The NBIC greatly appreciates Representative McCollum’s commitment to the CDL and will continue to advocate for additional federal funding to ensure barley remains a robust and competitive crop. A portion of the funding that has already been secured through NBIC efforts has been allocated to the Cereal Disease Lab and the NBIC enthusiastically supports this project to ensure a modern and well-equipped facility to attract high-caliber scientists and researchers.

Cool conditions persist across much of the barley growing region

Considerable planting progress has been made over the past few weeks, despite battling persistent cool and wet conditions throughout the northwest and upper Midwest. Typically, barley is planted by June, but notably in North Dakota and Minnesota, this is not the case. A more accurate accounting of acreage planted will be released in the June 30th Acreage Report to see if the 11% increase in barley acreage is realized in 2022. 

Cool weather, in general, is slowing crop development, but barley is proving to be a resilient crop in many areas despite ongoing severe drought conditions. The U.S. Drought Monitor is now showing 66% of the barley region in drought, which shows improvement from the past month. 

Access individual state crop progress and condition reports here:

Crop progress summaries:

Northwest Region (Idaho-Washington-Oregon): Cool and wet conditions persist. Barley emergence on par with average year, although across all crops, an up to three week delay in crop development has been reported in some areas. Although conditions have slowed crops, top and subsoil moisture levels are being replenished. 

Montana: Dry and windy conditions persist, exasperating the ongoing drought across nearly 95% of the state. 90% of barley is emerged with 10% booted, slightly ahead of average, although only 18% of the barley is rated in good condition. Only 35% of topsoil and 24% of subsoil moisture is rated adequate . 

Colorado: Drought conditions persist in 88% of the state, although some areas received much needed moisture last week. Nearly all the barley is emerged with 91% in fair or better condition, despite topsoil moisture at only 43% adequate and subsoil at 21% adequate. 

Wyoming: Cool weather was experienced throughout much of the state, but moisture was also received last week, slightly easing drought in some regions. About half of top and subsoil moisture levels are still short to very short. 92% of barley is emerged with 28% jointed. 91% of the barley is rated in good condition with 9% rated fair. 

North Dakota: Only 75% of barley has been planted at a time when on average, all barley would typically be in the ground. Furthermore, only 29% is reported as emerged, well behind the average of 85% for this time of year. Top and subsoil moisture is at 95% and 92% adequate or surplus, respectively. 

Minnesota: Top and subsoil moistures are now only rated 2 or 3% short, respectively. However, only 60% of barley has been planted, well behind the 98% average. Emergence is also delayed at only 35% (5-year average 90%). Delays are reported in most other crops as well. 

Crop progress reports are conducted weekly through the planting and growing season in each respective state. You can access these full reports and subscribe to report delivery here: