Malting barley choices get streamlined

Recent decisions on the progress of new varieties by the Maltsters’ Association of Great Britain (MAGB) has helped to streamline winter variety choice for the malting sector, believes Clare Leaman of NIAB TAG.

“Of the four new malting types that were recommended last December, just one has been given the nod,” she points out. “Two other existing choices, which were already in the testing system, have moved on to the next stage.”

As the maltsters can’t support too many varieties in the market at any one time, the loss of three varieties at such an early stage isn’t a problem, she adds. “It sends out a clear signal, both to the seed trade and to growers, about which varieties warrant their further attention.”

A further factor is the Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s decision to restrict the number of winter varieties tested to just two in the future, she adds.

The only newcomer to have been granted provisional approval for brewing is Talisman, she reports. “That’s good news for growers because it is the highest yielding winter malting type, at 102%. It is also early maturing and has good rhynchosporium resistance – both characteristics that are required.”

Also moving through the testing system is SY Venture, which has now been granted full approval for brewing use, and Archer, which moves on to the second year of provisional approval.

Winter barley candidates

Two malting types and five potential feed varieties are waiting in the wings and will be considered for recommendation later this year.

Acute and Fentara are the malting choices, both with a yield of 103%. “Of the two, Acute has slightly better disease resistance, including mosaic virus, but Fentara is slightly earlier to mature,” summarises NIAB’s Clare Leaman.

The feed candidates all have KWS Glacier’s high standard to beat, she notes. “It has really raised the bar. Tetris, which is the highest yielding of the candidates at 107%, also has a 9 rating for rhynchosporium.”

KWS Tower is also worth watching, she believes. “It’s not on the list of candidates, but it will be considered this year. It was previously known as KWS Discovery, but had to be withdrawn due to a distinctness, uniformity and stability (DUS) problem, and it was above KWS Glacier on yield this time last year.”

But all of the candidates need to have a very good year in 2013 to make the Recommended List, she advises.

“SY Venture is bound to take some market share this autumn,” Mrs Leaman predicts. “It has done everything that’s been asked of it so far and it manages to combine high yields with stiff straw.”

That’s a view echoed by Jerry Dyson of Molson Coors, who believes SY Venture closes the yield gap between malting and feed varieties, as well as meeting the company’s processing requirements.

“We’ve tested it successfully and it would seem to be a natural progression. Our requirement for winter malting barley is greater than that of other brewers, so it’s good to see this type of new variety coming through.”


In the two-row feed sector, newcomer KWS Glacier is setting a blistering pace, believes Mrs Leaman. “It’s got the lot and has taken yield up to the next level. It’s going to be very difficult for the other new recommendations, Matros and California, to make much of an impression.”

The fact that existing choice KWS Cassia has got around 30% market share is another relevant factor, she notes. “Growers are likely to move from Cassia to Glacier, without the need to try anything else. One in three winter barley fields this year is down to KWS Cassia.”

There aren’t any new six-row feed varieties this year, she points out, but there are changes afoot, following Syngenta’s decision not to put any more of its hybrid barleys through the Recommended List system.

“It’s a great shame. It will become more difficult for growers to see how they fit in.”

Volume, the highest yielding winter barley, is the only hybrid barley that is on the Recommended List, although Bamboo has been described. “And Volume is the obvious choice,” says Mrs Leaman. “Growers have been able to get very good yields from it.”

Low specific weight and perceived volunteer problems are a thing of the past where six-rows are concerned, she comments. “Things have moved on with six-rows. If you haven’t already done so, it could be time to try them.”

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