The highs and lows of protein

A minimum protein standard for malting barley is being considered

For years, growers have known that high protein in their grain means they lose malting quality status and hence dollars.

The Australian Barley Board now has three malting grades, the maximum protein levels being: Malt 1, 11 per cent; Malt 2, 11.8 per cent; and Malt 3, 13 per cent.

Last year there was a $17.50/t difference in payments between Malt 1 and Malt 3 and $45/t difference between Malt 1 and the best feed grade.

Now, malting barley buyers are also saying that they don't want barley too low in protein.

According to the Technical Services manager of the Australian Barley Board, Ken Saint, some malting barley clients are putting minim protein levels in their contracts. This is a clear market signal to the board and growers. "High protein levels in grain means less malt extract from a given tonnage but higher alcohol conversion activity (diastase)," Mr Saint said. "Conversely, low protein results in high extract but lower diastase.

"What the industry is trying to do is strike a balance so malting barley has acceptable malt and diastatic power levels at a given protein."

Mr Saint said no decision had yet been made about a minimum protein standard but it could possibly be introduced in the next year or two.