Tips for bulking up new malting barley seed by Eammon Conaghan

Malting markets represent top dollar for growers and new varieties keep the beer market competitive which would hardly seem a problem in Australia, but we're told it's a concern.

GROWERS WERE advised how WA's brand new barley varieties could help carve them a slice of WA's $300 million barley industry at the recent WA Crop Updates.

In our last issue Ground Cover reported that, just as the beer drinking season kicked into top gear, the Swan Brewery played host to the release of 'provisional malting' varieties BaudinPBR logo and HamelinPBR logo . Malting markets represent top dollar for growers and account for two-thirds of WA's barley production.

The new varieties must perform well with maltsters in at least two of their three years in commercial evaluation before being upgraded to full malting status.

Testing suggests both varieties offer superior malting quality and, between them, span all of WA's malting barley growing regions, including the south coast, where BaudinPBR logo's sprouting tolerance promises to help negate soggy finishes.

"Many growers are using the early release of these varieties to increase seed during 2003 in anticipation of their future classification as general malting. So producing high-quality seed is a priority for the coming year," said Department of Agriculture Barley Industry Development Officer, Ros Jettner.

Best bets to increase seed this year

To do this, growers should select a paddock with a low weed burden and one that did not carry a cereal crop last year. As another precaution, they should avoid sowing adjacent to paddocks with barley stubble to diminish the new crop's chance of contracting stubble-borne diseases such as net-type and spot-type net blotch and scald.

"Apply a full spectrum seed dressing and consider a foliar fungicide during stem elongation, which may be needed to optimise yield and seed quality," Ms Jettner recommended.

"Harvest at 12 per cent moisture, select quality seed from parts of the paddock with the healthiest plants, and maintain strict machinery hygiene as varietal purity is paramount for malting barley. "Ensure grain is softly handled, without skinning, and is correctly stored to maintain seed viability."

The optimal seeding rate for both varieties fell in the 35-45 kg/ha neighbourhood, while growers were advised to supply ample nutrients to ensure a healthy crop.

BaudinPBR logo and HamelinPBR logo are the first varieties emerging from the Western Malting Barley Council, a fast-track breeding program comprising the GRDC, the Department and a host of commercial partners including the Grain Pool, Joe White Makings, Kirin Australia, Barrett Burston, Swan Brewery and Carlton and United Brewery.

Besides agronomic, disease and pest considerations, new barleys must satisfy 35 other quality traits to qualify for malting. The list underlines the challenges facing barley breeders. One of the breeders of these new varieties was GRDC Winter Cereal Improvement Program Manager, Ross Gilmour.

From a marketing perspective, it is hoped BaudinPBR logo and HamelinPBR logo will help WA supply a brewing industry recovering from the threat of ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages.

Program 1 Contact: Ms Roslyn Jettner 08 9892 8444 email