Biotech & Barley: a webinar hosted by the American Malting Barley Association exploring innovation in the industry

Advancements in a wide range of biotechnologies are having a significant impact in the way improvements are being made to crops; whether to increase yields or to make them more resilient to stressors, barley is no different. Given the shifting landscape of the biotechnology industry, the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) is hosting a webinar to develop a shared understanding of what technologies exist, how they are being applied, and the implications for their use. Registration is now open for this live webinar to be held on June 15th at noon CT. 

Dr. Jason Walling, research geneticist at the USDA-ARS Cereal Crops Research Unit and director of the Barley Malt Quality Lab, will provide an overview of the history of plant breeding through today, including the latest advancements in gene editing. This will establish a shared lexicon of terms and approaches. He will illustrate how these technologies are being applied by showcasing some case studies on barley and other cereal crops. Dr. Fan-Li Chou, vice president for scientific affairs and policy at the American Seed Trade Association, will dive a bit deeper and share what regulatory frameworks overlay these technologies, and will specifically walk through the regulations that impact the shared case studies. Domestic and international implications will be explored that lean on the markets most relevant to the barley industry. The webinar will conclude with a live Q&A session with our presenters. 

Registration is limited and will be open to AMBA members only through May 31st, after which registration will be open to the general public. Click HERE for registration. A recording of the webinar will be made available a week after the event. If you are unable to attend the live session, but are interested in being notified when the recording is available, skip registration and send an email to Ashley directly to get added to the mailing list. 

Speakers:

Fan-Li Chou is the Vice President for Scientific Affairs and Policy at the American Seed Trade Association, where she leads ASTA initiatives on plant breeding innovation, intellectual property rights, domestic and international regulatory policies. Prior to ASTA, Fan-Li served at USDA for over 10 years, including as the Agricultural Biotechnology Advisor to the Office of the Secretary and in positions with the Foreign Agricultural Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.  She is an accomplished policy and program leader, with expertise in agricultural biotechnology regulatory, trade issues, and multilateral negotiations. 

Jason Walling is a research geneticist and director of the USDA-ARS Barley Malt Lab located at the Cereal Crops Research Unit (CCRU) in Madison, WI.  Jason completed his undergraduate at the University of Minnesota and spent some of that time working in the barley research plots of Dr. Donald Rasmussen.  He completed his Master’s degree in Plant Genetics at Montana State University and his PhD from UW Madison in Plant Breeding/Plant Genetics.  His research at CCRU focuses on the genetic mechanisms controlling seed dormancy and germination (preharvest sprouting) and their effects on malt quality.  Jason has been a member of AMBA’s technical committee since 2019.

National Barley Improvement Committee elects new members

The National Barley Improvement Committee (NBIC) has wrapped up its annual election to fill vacancies within their regional categories. Five new barley professionals will be joining the committee, and two representatives have been re-elected. The NBIC represents the U.S. barley community of growers, researchers, processors, users, and allied industries. The work of the NBIC seeks to secure both funding and favorable agricultural policies at the federal level. Visit their website to learn more about the regional categories and how to become involved: https://ambainc.org/nbic/.  

  • Northwest: Dr. Brigid Meints, assistant professor in the barley breeding program at Oregon State University
  • Southwest: Judy Jolly, agronomist for the Molson Coors Beverage Company
  • Northcentral: Dr. Thomas Baldwin, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at North Dakota State University; Dr. Eric Stockinger (re-elected), barley associate professor at Ohio State University; and Dr. Brook Wilke, associate director of the Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Agroecosystem Research Program at Michigan State University
  • Southcentral-Southeast: Dr. Katherine Frels, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
  • East: Dr. Heather Darby (re-elected), professor of agronomy at the University of Vermont

The barley community would like to thank the many years of service contributed by the outgoing members of the NBIC:

  • Dr. Andrew Friskop
  • Dr. Patrick Hayes
  • Wade Malchow
  • Mary-Jane Maurice

Crop progress mixed across barley growing regions

Depending on your location, spring weather is throwing some significant extremes, either providing ample opportunities to get seed into the ground, or as is the case across much of the Midwest, continuing to keep that door shut with wet and cool soil conditions. 

According to the USDA-NASS Crop Progress and Condition report for the week of May 9th, Montana is the only state showing ahead of average progress on barley planted acres. This, across much of the state, is due to the continuing dry conditions along with recent above average temperatures. Despite seed in the ground, without much needed rain, the crop will likely struggle to get out of the gate. At the other extreme, much of the drought-stricken areas in North Dakota have been replenished with 80% of the top soil moisture at adequate or surplus levels leading to only 6% of the barley crop planted opposed to 55% on average typically in the ground this time of year. 

Crop progress summaries:

Idaho: 72% of barley is planted with 42% emerged, both down slightly from last year and the 5-year average. Other field crops are experiencing similar progress. A cool and wet spring persists and has slowed planting, but has brought much needed precipitation to the state that is now reporting topsoil moisture as 90% adequate or surplus with just 29% of the subsoil as short or very short. 

Montana: Planted acres of barley are slightly ahead the previous year (55%) and 5-year average (51%) at 66%, up 16% from last week that generally brought minimal precipitation and above average temperatures. 25% percent of the crop has now emerged. Most other field crops are reporting progress close to average for this time of year. Some emerged spring crops are reporting stress. Only 23% of topsoil and 14% of subsoil moisture is reported as adequate.

North Dakota: Only 6% of barley has been planted, well behind 60% last year and the average of 33% for this time of year. All field crops are reporting similar lagging progress after a week logging just 2.3 days suitable for field work. Topsoil is now 80% adequate or at surplus moisture levels with subsoil still measuring 29% short or very short on moisture. 

Washington: 75% of the barley crop is in the ground (close to average) with 30% emerged (slightly below average). Other field crops are generally running at or slightly below average as cool and wet conditions persist through the state. Topsoil moisture is running at 82% adequate or surplus with only 33% of subsoil at short or very short. 

Oregon: 89% of the barley crop is planted with 57% emerged; slight increases on both accounts from last week but cool and wet conditions are slowing crop development. 69% of winter barley is showing to be in good or excellent condition this spring. Topsoil moisture is running at 75% adequate or surplus with 39% of subsoil at short or very short. 

Minnesota: Only 5% of barley has been planted, an increase from 1% last week, but down from 85% at this time last year, and lower than the 5-year average of 43% for the first week of May. All field crops in the state are recording similar levels, indicating consistent planting conditions throughout the state. Recent rain has replenished topsoil moisture that is faring much better than last year and is now reporting 95% at adequate or surplus levels. Furthermore, only 15% of subsoil moisture is now being recorded at very short or short. 

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: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/index.php

Congratulations to AMBA members taking home medals from the 2022 World Beer Cup

Known as the ‘Olympics of beer’ the World Beer Cup showcases the top three entered beers in the world across more than 100 style categories. The Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are awarded every two years and the competition is held in conjunction with the Brewers Association’s Craft Brewers Conference which just wrapped up this week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

AMBA is proud of our member breweries that took home hardware from this year’s event:

  • Allagash Brewing Co.; Tripel (gold, ‘Belgian-Style Tripel’) and White (bronze, ‘Belgian-Style Witbier’)
  • Ballast Point Brewing Co.; Schlenkerlish (gold, ‘Smoke Beer’)
  • Deschutes Brewery; Dee Wright (gold, ‘Other Strong Beer’) and NA Black Butte (silver, ‘Non-Alcoholic beer’)
  • Georgetown Brewing Co.; Gusto Crema Coffee Ale (gold, ‘Coffee Beer’)
  • Lakefront Brewery; La Gosa Rita (gold, ‘Gluten-Free Beer’)
  • MadTree Brewing Co.; Ziegler (gold, ‘American-Style Amber Lager’) and Legendary Lager (silver, ‘Contemporary American-Style Lager’)
  • Russian River Brewing Co.; Jannemi (silver, ‘Classic Saison’)
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.; Sunny Little Thing (bronze, ‘Fruit Wheat Beer’)
  • Sun King Brewery; Barrel Aged Churrolicious (gold, ‘Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer’), Soul Shakedown Party (silver, ‘Experimental Wood-Aged Beer’), and Sunlight Cream Ale (silver, ‘Golden or Blonde Ale’)
  • Widmer Brothers Brewing; Hefe (silver, ‘American Wheat Beer’)

You can find the full list of winners at the World Beer Cup website

AMBA leads panel at Craft Brewers Conference addressing barley supply in a changing climate

The 39th Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America, presented by the Brewers Association, will be held Monday, May 2 – Thursday, May 5, 2022 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The event, which is America’s largest craft brewing industry gathering, draws thousands of attendees each year. 

Featured in the Quality & Ingredients track is a panel addressing “Malting Barley Supply in a Changing Climate.” Moderated by Ashley McFarland, vice president and technical director of AMBA, this roundtable will explore our changing climate and the impacts it will have on the growing conditions and resulting quality of the U.S. malting barley crop. Joined by a climate scientist and barley breeder, McFarland will guide the discussion on how the climate is changing and what our research community is doing to bring forward more resilient barley varieties to combat increasing abiotic stressors. You will also hear from a barley grower that has first hand experience with getting a malting barley crop off the field despite the drought, warmer evenings, and untimely rains. The roundtable will wrap up with a discussion on how to pivot from this certain fate and how to support the domestic malting barley industry despite evolving quality challenges from the perspective of a craft brewing icon. 

Panelists joining McFarland include:

  • Dr. Kenny Blumenfeld – Senior Climatologist, Minnesota Climatology Office, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • Buzz Mattelin – farmer and past president of the National Barley Growers Association
  • Dr. Patrick Hayes – professor and barley breeder at Oregon State University
  • John Mallett – vice president of operations, Bell’s Brewery

AMBA hopes you will join the session and looks forward to seeing you at the conference! Follow Ashley at CBC on Twitter @AMBA_Barley. To learn more about the Craft Brewers Conference, visit the event site: http://brewers.informz.net/z/cjUucD9taT04NjcyMTIyJnA9MSZ1PTk1MTkxODY5MiZsaT03NTU1MjE0OQ/index.html

Using timing of risks and benefits to breed barley for future climates

Printed with permission from Sonia A. Hall, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University. Originally published on AgClimate.net.

This article is part of a series where Hall shares insights from conversations they had with public plant breeders across the Pacific Northwest about their breeding programs and how climate change considerations intersect with their work. Through these conversations, Hall wanted to better understand the complexities of the plant breeders’ world, where there are elements that already provide useful information about adapting to future climates, and where there are questions—about the climate in the future, or the plants’ responses, or production, market, or other factors affecting a particular crops’ future—that intersect or even overshadow questions about how to prepare for future climates.

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Barley, like wheat, can be sown in the fall, overwinter, and grow and mature the next season, or can be planted in the early spring, and have a shorter, quicker growing season. For a variety of reasons, however, spring barley is considered “the good one” for malting and producing beer. Yet as Dr. Patrick Hayes, Oregon State University’s malting barley breeder, works to develop barley varieties that will be grown under future climates, fall barley is key. The timing of growth and the resources it taps can help avoid a variety of issues that will otherwise impact barley yields and quality (whose main indicator is the percent protein in the grain). Read on for Dr. Hayes’s explanation of why fall barley is becoming increasingly attractive.

SAH: Please describe the focus of your breeding program.

PH: Our breeding program is focused on barley varieties for malting, food, and animal feed. We primarily target growers in the Pacific Northwest, though varieties released here are also adapted to, and used across, a broader geography. The malting and beer brewing industry is why barley exists. Its use for food is a niche market at this time. And animal feed is a default (alas, usually a money-loser) for barley that does not make malt grade.

SAH: Do you currently integrate climate change considerations into your breeding program? How? Are there conditions that make it hard, or unnecessary, to integrate climate change considerations into breeding?

PH: Yes. High temperatures and limited moisture can lead to high protein content in barley, impacting its quality for brewing. The genetics of drought tolerance are super complex, so breeding drought tolerant varieties, particularly with malting quality, is a challenge. We therefore breed for fall-planted barley that can make best use of the available winter moisture and, in irrigated fields, reduce the need for irrigation. This will be beneficial under future conditions with more frequent, and less late-season irrigation water available as snowpacks get smaller and melt earlier. The added advantage of fall barley is that it matures a little earlier, so has a better chance of avoiding heat extremes in the summer. One of our local brewers described the impact of the 2021 heat wave in optimum dryland barley growing areas as a “bloodbath.”

SAH: What traits or characteristics do you focus on in your current breeding program? Do those traits or characteristics confer the ability to adapt to future climates, that could be warmer in all seasons, with increasing variability and extremes? Or could they be affected by changing climates?

PH: Even though the net trajectory as the climate changes is for warming, extremes, including late frosts, are becoming more volatile. Dealing with volatility is a challenge. This explains why, though it’s somewhat counterintuitive, we breed for low temperature tolerance even as the net trajectory is warming. Fall-planted barley requires a tolerance to low temperatures. This a complex trait that we are slowly unraveling. Low temperature tolerance is coupled with flowering time. Some varieties need certain cold periods before they are able to grow and become reproductive. Others simply respond to the length of the day, which becomes their cue for switching to reproductive growth. This is what we are unraveling, but we see options that we can use in breeding. And of course you need all the other positive traits required of a barley variety in terms of resistances, quality, etc.

SAH: What trade-offs do you consider, or would you need to consider, in breeding for warmer conditions, longer frost-free periods, and likely wetter springs and winters, drier summers, and a shift in the availability of irrigation water to earlier in the year (as expected in much of the Pacific Northwest?

PH: Breeding for drought tolerance per se is a huge challenge. We are leaving that to others. Our strategy is avoidance via fall planting. Fall planted crops also mature earlier than spring planted crops, allowing them to escape the hottest days of summer.

SAH: Are there resources – online tools, Extension or other publications, events, etc. – that you know of that can help agricultural professionals integrate climate change into their work assisting producers with variety choice? Or any resources you wish existed?

PH: Certainly necessary and something I intend to get involved with once the decks clear a bit.

This conversation glosses over a whole range of factors that barley growers need to consider, including how barley fits into their rotation, and whether they have the storage capacity and infrastructure to handle malting barley, if they have access to contracts for malting barley to even plant it in the first place, to say nothing of all the management practices that can affect yields and grain quality. Yet breeding for cold tolerance to have productive fall barley varieties that can avoid the worst of what climate change might have in store for our region is an interesting twist on other approaches we are hearing from plant breeders. This twist may also be of interest to other crops that could be planted in the fall. And I can’t help but be personally intrigued by the irony of breeding for cold tolerance in a warming world.

AMBA featured in Brewers Association webinar; discusses need for public investment in barley

Every year, unique circumstances influence markets, and barley and hops are not immune to economic forces. To maintain a healthy supply chain, many efforts from research and development, federal affairs, consumer surveys, and forecasting collide.

This webinar explored the factors shaping the marketplace so that attendees could gain a better understanding of the activities that support and shed light on the state of the industry. Ashley McFarland, Vice President and Technical Director of the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA), Bryan Thoet from the Hop Research Council (HRC), and Bart Watson, Brewers Association (BA) Chief Economist provided a glimpse at what’s happening with barley and hops in 2022 and beyond. 

To access a recording of the webinar, visit this site: https://www.brewersassociation.org/collab-hour/whats-happening-with-barley-and-hops/. Please note that content is only available to Brewers Association members. 

Barley Pest Initiative receives additional $1 million in annual funding

The National Barley Improvement Committee (NBIC) is excited to confirm that the FY22 federal omnibus spending bill increased the annual appropriation to the Barley Pest Initiative (BPI) by $1 million annually, bringing the total to $2 million. These funds are allocated each year to support researchers at USDA Agricultural Research Service stations and land grant universities across fifteen states. The NBIC is committed and is actively seeking additional funding increases in FY23 appropriations to reach their $5.3 million goal.

Barley pests cause 5 to 15% yield reductions annually, resulting in losses of $36 to $118 million a year nationwide to growers. The BPI strengthens the capacity of the national public sector barley research infrastructure to address 20 major insect, viral, bacterial, and fungal threats to the production of high-quality barley. The Initiative focuses on improved environmental sustainability and economic returns to barley growers, while meeting the needs of domestic and export end-users for high-quality barley. Scientists are working to develop management and genetic resistance strategies to mitigate or eliminate the substantial negative economic impact of major barley pests. This enhances the competitiveness of the barley crop, promoting a robust and high-quality supply of domestic barley for various end-users, thus minimizing industry reliance on global imports. To learn more about the BPI and targeted pests, visit NBIC’s website at: https://ambainc.org/nbic/.

The locations receiving funding through the BPI are (updated annual funding):

USDA-ARS facilities:

  • Aberdeen, Idaho ($213,846)
  • Ames, Iowa ($171,154)
  • Fargo, North Dakota ($291,923)
  • Ft. Detrick, Maryland ($96,154)
  • Lincoln, Nebraska ($55,385)
  • Pullman, Washington ($128,462)
  • Raleigh, North Carolina ($128,462)
  • St. Paul, Minnesota ($291,923)
  • Stillwater, Oklahoma ($213,846)

Universities:

  • Cornell University ($21,538)
  • Montana State University ($43,077)
  • North Dakota State University ($43,077)
  • Ohio State University ($21,538)
  • Oregon State University ($21,538)
  • University of California-Davis ($43,077)
  • University of Idaho ($43,077)
  • University of Minnesota ($85,769)
  • University of Nebraska ($21,538)
  • Virginia Tech ($21,538)
  • Washington State University ($43,077)

USDA prospective plantings report estimates 11% increase in barley acreage in 2022

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released their prospective plantings and grain stocks reports today which highlighted the continued depletion in barley stocks both on and off-farm, but an increase in potential planted acres in the 2022 crop year. 

You can access the barley stock report at the AMBA website: https://ambainc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Stocks_033122.pdf

Barley stocks in all positions on March 1, 2022 totaled 72.6 million bushels, down 40 percent from March 1, 2021. On-farm stocks are estimated at 25.3 million bushels, 55 percent below a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 47.4 million bushels, are 27 percent below March 2021. The December 2021 – February 2022 indicated disappearance totaled 24.9 million bushels, 12 percent below the same period a year earlier.

You can access the barley prospective plantings report at the AMBA website: https://ambainc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Acreage_033122.pdf

Producers intend to seed 2.94 million acres of barley for the 2022 crop year, up 11 percent from the previous year. In Montana, the largest barley state (by acreage), acreage is expected to increase by 12 percent, from last year. Record low planted acreage is estimated for Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Utah.

You can find additional barley data at the NASS website

McFarland featured in March Pink Boots Society newsletter

The Pink Boots Society, an organization formed to inspire and encourage professionals in the fermented and alcoholic beverage industries to advance their careers through education, recently featured Ashley McFarland, AMBA vice president and technical director, in their March newsletter. McFarland became a Pink Boots member back in October when she started with AMBA and is excited to become more engaged with the society. 

McFarland noted, “I hope to contribute to this network of professionals my knowledge of barley to inspire members to become more curious about the raw grain that is at the heart of many of their products.” The newsletter shares the rather unconventional path that led Ashley from her family’s dairy farm in northeast Iowa to her role now with AMBA while living near Lake Superior in Duluth, MN. McFarland hopes to become more actively engaged with the Wisconsin chapter and push barley related content to the entire society.

To learn more about the Pink Boots Society, visit their website: https://www.pinkbootssociety.org/.

Click here to read the most recent newsletter featuring Ashley.