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Research Report: Improvement and Development of Barley for Use in Feed, Malt, and Fuel

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By Wynse S. Brooks, Mark E. Vaughn, Nicholas Meier, Joshua Fitzgerald, and Carl A. Griffey, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The Virginia Tech barley-breeding program is the largest and until recently was the only remaining public program in the eastern United States. The barley program is significantly
diverse with breeding efforts focused on the development of superior, widely adapted, high yielding winter barley cultivars and a major focus on the incorporation of value-added traits geared towards the development of new markets.

As interest continues to grow in locally produced ingredients from the craft brewing industry in the mid-Atlantic and eastern U.S., finding malted barley is not easy for those located east of
the Mississippi river. This has triggered significant demand for malting barley. We are trying to bridge this gap by evaluating malting barley cultivars developed by collaborators in the U.S. and Europe while rapidly developing and testing our own malting barley experimental lines. Locally produced malting barley is good for the economy and farmers can earn a $3 to $4 premium for growing quality malting barley. Virginia currently grows around 45,000 acres of feed barley annually, which could be converted to production of malting barley as well as fostering an expansion in total barley acreage. Winter grown barley is more sustainable since it is grown from October to June, providing farmers the added double crop opportunities with
soybeans in the summer. According to the Brewers Association, Virginia’s 124 craft breweries currently produce over 274,000 barrels of craft beer annually and economic impact over a million dollars.

Our main effort is breeding winter malting barley cultivars that have superior malt quality and are well adapted to the mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States. We have recently started
developing Double Haploid (DH) malting barley lines in collaboration with Oregon State University. Results from these tests are encouraging since Double Haploids allow us to develop cultivars much faster than traditional methods. The DH lines are genetically pure, eliminating approximately 2-3 years of the total time required to develop a variety. Besides developing and testing our own experimental lines, we also collaborate with other breeding programs, which allows us to evaluate cultivars developed by our collaborators across the country as well as cultivars from around the world, especially Europe. Meanwhile, in 2017-2018 season, we
plan to start a regional mid-Atlantic Malt Barley Trial with neighboring states to facilitate collaborations and enhance cultivar development. We have a graduate student, Nick Meier, developing molecular markers for malting quality traits to help us select superior quality malting lines with more precision and eliminate costly testing expenses. Nick is also working
on flavor analysis of commonly grown cultivars to determine how malt flavor is affected by genetics and environment. We anticipate that interest in production of malting barley will continue to grow in this region and we plan to release cultivars to meet diverse market  demands. Our future allotment of resources will continue to provide more resources to our winter malting barley as it continues to grow.

In 2017 harvest year, the overall grain yield of Thoroughbred was 96 bushels per acre with average test weight of 41.0 pounds per bushel compared to the mean yield of 91 bushel per acre and test weight of 42.1 pounds per bushel for the mean of all cultivars tested. Average
grain yield of Secretariat (99 bushels per acre) was 3 bushels per acre higher than Thoroughbred, 5 bushels per acre higher than Atlantic (92 bushels per acre), 15 bushels per acre higher than Price, 17 bushels per acre higher than Callao and 24 bushels per acre higherthan Nomini. However, the hulled barley experimental line VA14B-79 had the highest average overall grain yield (105 bushel per acre) that was 6 bushel per acre higher than Secretariat, 9 bushel per acre more than Thoroughbred and 14 bushel per acre higher than the overall test mean. In addition, two other hulled barley experimental lines (VA14B-63 and VA14B-74) ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in average grain yield (103 and 100 bushels per acre) that were 3 to 4 bushels per acre lower than that of Secretariat and 1 to 2 bushels per acre higher than Thoroughbred.

In the Winter Malt Barley Trials (WMBT) conducted at locations in Blacksburg and Warsaw, VA in 2017; The winter malt barley variety Hirondella was the highest yielding (101 Bu/ac) cultivar among 30 entries and yielded 8 bushel per acre higher than the winter barley check cultivar McGregor, 12 bushel per acre more than the winter malting barley check cultivars Wintmalt, 19
bushel per acre higher than Thoroughbred, 27 bushel per acre higher than Endeavor,
53 bushel per higher than Charles. Two other malt barley varieties Flavia and Calypso ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in grain yield. The malt barley cultivar Violetta ranked 10th in average grain yield. In addition, these new malt barley (Flavia, Calypso and Violetta) cultivars also have better disease resistance (0 = no disease, and 9 = severe infection) to leaf rust (1, 2) than Thoroughbred and Charles (8 and 9 respectively). Additionally, in an inoculated and mist-irrigated FHB field test at Mount Holly, VA; Violetta and Calypso expressed better resistance to
FHB than the winter malt check cultivars Thoroughbred, Wintmalt, and Charles. Violetta and Calypso had mean FHB values for incidence of (50.0 and 56.3%), severity (9.9 and 10.4%) and index (5.1 and 6.0%) respectively.

ResearchJennifer Elwell