2 February 1996

Germans warm to UKexports

THE battle to convince German maltsters that winter barley can produce quality malt is won.

That is good news for UK growers, who should now find export markets more interested in the new generation of high yielding, high quality winter lines as a result, says a leading German breeder.

Joseph Breun, whose past successes include Apollo winter wheat and Alexis spring barley, has worked long and hard on winter malting types. "We started in 1964. We could see that combining the highest spring barley quality with winter barley yield would make a good variety."

At the heart of the programme was germplasm developed by the Institute for Plant Breeding at Weihenstephan. After 25 years, Regina has emerged, Breuns new winter malter, being marketed by British Seed Houses in the UK.

Even now quality does not top the best spring types, Mr Breun admits. But the new variety, hotly pursued by others from breeding programmes around Europe, meets the needs of maltsters and brewers alike – as demonstrated in malting trials, he claims.

Fast seed multiplication in former East Germany has allowed three years micro-malting trials plus commercial trials by two big maltsters last year, explains Karl Dorr of German merchanting company BayWa, which multiplies and markets Breun varieties. "They have all said Regina is very good."

Official malting trials have been successful too – Regina giving very low protein scores and enzyme activity to match Alexis. "We may not be up to Alexis in overall quality, but we are well ahead of Triumph," Mr Breun comments. In Denmark Regina is now a standard by which other malting barleys are measured.

Angora, a sister line of Regina, led the way. It was listed in Germany in 1990. "Only this last autumn did maltsters finally accept it in large quantities," notes Mr Dorr. Major maltsters Weissheimer, MaltEurop and Cargill all accept winter malting barley now, he says.

Regina and associated lines also offer good adaptability, says Mr Breun. Like Alexis, they were bred and tested at Herzogenaurach, near Nuremberg, where poor soils and a harsh climate put them through their paces. "In trials Regina is consistently top yielder throughout Europe, from Denmark to Spain and Eire to Poland," he says.

The consistency stems from an ability to compensate for setbacks through a high tillering potential, high grain number per ear and good lodging resistance. Although yellow rust and mildew resistance are poor, the variety gives the highest yields in untreated trials, notes Mr Breun.

both get high ratings from NIAB. However, a score of just 2 for yellow rust means the variety is ineligible for general recommendation. Mr Breun is disappointed, but says modern fungicides control it. Mildew resistance is weak too, yet the variety gives the highest untreated yields, he notes.

With a high yield potential, low proteins and better standing power than Puffin, there is scope to experiment, adds Mr Dorr. "You still need a malting regime, but there could be scope for pushing soil type and nitrogen."

So what of the future? Mr Breun claims he has winter lines which are "indistinguishable" from spring types for quality. Getting the agronomic characters right is not easy. But the days of spring barleys dominating malting quality are clearly numbered, he believes.

New generation winter barleys give even choosy maltsters what they want, say German breeders Joseph Breun (left) and Karl Dorr.