WA growers demonstrate varietal purity importance

Photo of a man perched high over fields

Steve Tilbrook from the South East Premium Wheat
Growers. Association, WA

The South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA) on the south coast of Western Australia is a grower group that has a strong background in improving and promoting the quality of grain exported from its local region. The Esperance port zone (the area that SEPWA represents) consistently exports more than 300,000 tonnes of malting barley annually. Nigel Metz, project officer for SEPWA, says that when they became aware of new technology in the area of varietal purity testing, they saw an opportunity for the region to be proactive in ensuring grain quality for the export market. 

“SEPWA understood from visits to malt barley end users that varietal purity was particularly important to ensure even germination in the malting process. Varietal testing was an obvious step forward in safeguarding local market reputation.  

“Many growers plant more than one variety of barley, and mix-ups or loss of varietal purity is always a possibility,” Mr Metz says.

“The emerging varietal purity testing technology offers the check mechanism to ensure pure barley exports from the region. For this reason, SEPWA has worked with the GRDC for several years on new cost-effective methods of varietal testing.”

Mr Metz also noted that many plant breeders now allow grower-to-grower trading for seed bulk-up and distribution. The varietal purity testing technology has given SEPWA growers a way to cheaply and quickly verify an over-the-fence seed source. “This is critical in the establishment of new malting barley varieties and their market development.”

Steve Tilbrook, a grower from Mt Madden, WA, and chair of the SEPWA Barley Council, says growers will be able to test seed bought from or sold to neighbours and be guaranteed they have the right variety and that it is pure. He says it will also give growers a fast way of checking their own seed.

“The barley industry has long been searching for an accurate, inexpensive method of testing for varietal purity for malt barley as the malting industry requires 95 per cent purity. Growers generally deliver what they think is the right variety but with the amount of malt varieties now available mix-ups can occur.”

Mr Tilbrook encourages growers to test their seed annually to be confident they are not disrupting malt stacks.

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