Grain discolouration It's in the breeding

Photo of discoloured grain.

Grain discolouration in barley is a major problem for growers in parts of Australia including the south coast of WA and southern high-rainfall areas of Victoria.

Kevin Young of Agriculture WA told the barley conference the solution lies in barley breeding rather than changes to agronomic practices.

He said any management practice on its own, including the use of fungicides and changes to nitrogen applications, plant density, sowing dates and harvesting techniques, was likely to have little effect on grain colour although in combination the effect would be greater "especially if the grower is getting the basics wrong".

Mr Young has screened local and overseas barleys and has found existing varieties which resist kernel discolouration.

"In the longer term, it should be possible to breed locally adapted varieties with significant improvements in resistance to kernel discolouration using Japanese malting lines."

Colour comes with fungi

"It should be remembered that industry resistance to the purchase of discoloured grain is because it has been associated with a high level of fungal activity and the risk of associated problems in both the malt-house and the brewery.

"It is pointless breeding for resistance to weather staining unless such resistance is linked to reduced populations of microflora on the surface of the grain."