Milwaukee – September 9, 2019 – As with many other crops, the seeding of barley was delayed in some areas due to the cool-wet spring. One consequence has been a later and longer harvest period. “This drawn out harvest has increased the chances of small grains getting rained on and sprouting in the field,” according to Marvin Zutz, Executive Director of the Minnesota Barley Growers. “It appears that much of the barley was harvested prior to the rain in Minnesota, but a significant portion of the crop in North Dakota did not get taken off in time. Other states may have regions affected as well.”
The North American malting barley industry has undergone some significant changes in the last quarter century. There has been a decline in the area planted to barley, particularly feed types, an increase in direct contracting with producers, and a shift toward two-row varieties.
The industry was founded on the production of six-rowed varieties. Early production was concentrated near the large brewing centers in the eastern half of the continent and growers found that the available six-row varieties performed best in these humid regions. Brewers too, favored these varieties which had quality attributes best suited to making the beer that the public was drinking.
St. Paul – November 17, 2015 – The University of Minnesota (UM) has played an integral part in the development of malting barley for over a century. In the early part of the 20th century, this land grant institution cooperated with USDA Division of Cereal and Disease scientists located in St. Paul and participated in the evaluation of germplasm for its adaptation to upper Midwest growing conditions. Much of this work was done by Dr. Harry Harlan who received his PhD from UM while working for the USDA. The released varieties were mostly six-rows of the Manchurian type, that did well in Minnesota, but also included Trebi which became a dominant six-row malting barley in the western US and Alpha, a two-row variety that was popular in New York and New England.
Technical Committee (TC) representatives of the American Malting Barley Association’s (AMBA) twenty one Regular brewing, malting, and distilling members, met on April 17, 2014 in Milwaukee. The TC added a set of analytical parameters to the “AMBA MALTING BARLEY BREEDING GUIDELINES – IDEAL COMMERCIAL MALT CRITERIA,” that would meet the requirements of AMBA’s 64 large and small members that produce all malt beers.
Barley has gone from being a major feed grain to a specialty food crop in the last twenty-five years. While there are still a few areas, primarily corn deficient regions, in the US that utilize barley for livestock, barley’s major use is for malting. This malt makes its way into many of the cereals, crackers and baked goods that we eat and of course, the beer and other malt beverages that we drink. This shift to a higher value food crop has occurred as acreage has declined and barley’s value has increased.