New barley varieties could gain a significant market share in the next two to three years, according to experts.

With over 80% of Scottish malting barley supplied by three ageing varieties – Chalice, Decanter and Optic, advances in breeding techniques mean new varieties could gain market share quickly, said Baird’s Malt’s Eddie Douglas.

“We need varieties that can give us good, sound grain quality and excellent malting potential.”

The Scottish Agricultural College’s cereals specialist, Steve Hoad expects the main new contenders to be Oxbridge, Troon, Westminster, Tipple and Appoloosa.

“Appoloosa, which is currently under test for provisional IoB [Institute of Brewing] approval, yields 10% more than Optic and, despite being (like Optic) weak on Rhynchosporium, could find favour among the distillers due to its low GN [glycosidic nitrile] level,” he noted.

“Malt distillers now require high hot water extract and spirit yield, whilst grain distillers require high enzyme potential – but both need non-GN producers,” explained Nickerson’s Mark Glew.

He says that Oxbridge, which is provisionally approved by the IoB, is a non GN producer and yielded 105% on the SAC Recommended List, compared to 99% for Optic.

The variety also offers good disease resistance – rated seven for mildew and Rhynchosporium and also scores eight for brackling, he said.

“Overall, growers need a clear understanding of market requirements and grow specifically for that market,” added Dr Hoad. “They need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the new varieties in agronomic terms and in terms of grain quality.”

The MAGB (Maltsters Association of Great Britain) has just produced its revised ‘wish list’ of the nitrogen band levels that UK maltsters want from the coming season’s malting barley crop. See www.ukmalt.com/maltingbarley/wishlist6.html