Scottish barley growers could have another variety option for the distilling market if new tests prove successful, according to the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC).

Tests on whether feeding spring barley variety Tartan with higher rates of nitrogen will encourage the variety to produce higher levels of alcohol during malting could determine whether the variety makes the HGCA Recommended List, SAC researcher Ken Davies said.

“Nickerson’s are interested in Tartan replacing Decanter in Scotland for the distilling market,” he said. But micro-malting tests in 2005 were disappointing with doubts over whether it would achieve sufficient diastatic power.

There was evidence that increased nitrogen rates on Decanter encouraged the diastatic enzyme, so the same was being tried with Tartan. “We’re looking at rates up to 185kgN/ha.”

Grain will be tested after harvest. “The HGCA is hovering a little over Tartan – these trials could help put it on the list.”