1 December 1995

Exciting times ahead for winter barley crop

"TREMENDOUS breeding efforts", resulting in several winter barleys combining high yield and top malting quality, make for "exciting times", according to NIABs Richard Fenwick.

Their arrival coincides with a tremendous demand for malt from Pacific Rim countries and the Far East. NIAB deputy director Simon Draper recently visited Beijing, China, where beer is still made partly from rice because of a malt shortage. "There is a huge demand for beer in China."

Five of the six varieties vying for listing receive provisional recommendation. Only Tokyo, unique in having resistance to all known barley yellow mosaic virus (BYMV) strains, fails to make it – mainly because of poor grain quality.

Two for general use

Gleam and the six-row mainly feed type, Muscat, are provisionally recommended for general use. The other two-rows, Angora, Prelude and Regina, enter the list under the PS (special use) category. All the two-rows merit a 9 (top rating) for malting, though none is yet approved by the Institute of Brewing.

Gleam combines Pastoral-style yield, top malting quality, very stiff straw and a "very good spectrum of disease resistance", says Mr Fenwick. Another "useful attribute" is its tolerance of BYMV, a feature until now seen only in feed varieties or lower grade malters, he notes.

Muscats key virtue is its exceptionally good specific weight. Yield potential is similar to the other listed six-row, Manitou. But at 68.1 its specific weight is nearly four points higher, almost matching that of the two-rows. It resists BYMV but has only moderate straw strength and is "very tall".

Regina comes in as the highest yielder on the list, just outstripping Gaelic in fungicide-treated trials. Short and very stiff, it has "excellent resistance" to rhynchosporium and net blotch. But defences against other diseases are less good. Mildew is certainly worth controlling, says Mr Fenwick. And its provisional yellow rust rating of 2 is below the standard permitting general recommendation.

Prelude does not quite match the top two-row feeds for yield but is a "significant" advance on Halcyon and has good all round disease resistance. "Its short, stiff and early – another good variety," says Mr Fenwick.

Angora, a sister to the already listed Melanie, yields on a par with Prelude. It has very stiff straw and good rhynchosporium resistance. But it is "very susceptible to yellow rust" – hence the PS tag.