AT THE Pauls Malt open days at Rushbrooke near Bury St Edmunds last month, malting varieties showed off their wares.
But one variety wasnt even allowed plot space. Pipkins absence summed up its life expectancy, said Robin Pirie, grain director.
"Its hanging on by the skin of its teeth and is likely to disappear gracefully, probably without the enduring core of loyalty that Maris Otter enjoys."
Puffin, while it had been a reliable back row supporting variety for the past five years, had never really found a premium market. "I dont think any of our customers specify it by name," said Mr Pirie.
On the other hand, Pauls Malt still believed there was a large market for Halcyon. With a few big customers for the variety, and some smaller ones, Halcyon could make something of a comeback over the next few years.
This was the prediction despite the sorry state of the plot which, admittedly, had not received any straw stiffeners. Halcyon was still appropriate for natural malting barley land, believed Mr Pirie.
It should still earn a 20-25% premium over feed wheat, while newer varieties couldnt be expected to attract more than 5-10% over feed.
Fanfares meteoric rise from a few hundred tonnes in 1996 to an estimated 500,000 tonnes this year is unprecedented, according to the Institute of Brewing.
Not all will be grown under a malting regime. And the amount that the malting market can accommodate will also be constrained, said Mr Pirie. He estimated that only about a fifth of this years crop will end up as malting grade.
Fanfares higher dormancy shouldnt pose problems south of the Humber, he said. Its high extract has moved the scale so that other varieties have moved down a grade.
Fanfare, Regina and Rifle are likely to be the only varieties rated 9 on the 1998 NIAB Recommended List.
UK-bred Rifle looked as though it could be the next Fanfare, though there was not yet enough information for Pauls to give it full support.
Gleam and Regina can be expected to provide another half million tonnes between them this year. While Gleams BYMV resistance was a bonus, Fanfare was always going to be preferred by Pauls.
While an IOB decision on Regina had been deferred, Mr Pirie believed that it is more likely to export as a barley than as a malt.
Melanie was catching on well in Scotland, while its sister variety Angora was finding favour with the brewer maltsters. However the sales maltsters, such as Pauls, were less able to market it to the continent.
Spring barleys were more likely to be in demand for the export business, especially in East Anglia with the completion later this year of Pauls new £30m Bury St Edmunds plant with its 100,000 tonnes annual capacity.
Chariot was commanding the lions share of the spring malting barley acreage. But, from the maltsters point of view, its growth was swinging the balance towards the low modification end of the malting spectrum, the younger variety Optic even more so.
What was needed now was a true pretender to Alexis to cater for high modification requirements. Cooper was the nearest thing in terms of modification but had rather poorer extract.
Its been a year of mixed fortunes for malting barley varieties. Tia Rund reports on one maltsters reaction.