The purchase of West Bred by Monsanto could be positive for producers, said Tom Blake, Montana State University barley breeder.
“It is going to be interesting,” said Blake, who was trained in plant breeding about the time genetic engineering was beginning to gear up. “They have access to technology the public breeders don't have and they can collaborate with us.”
Blake said he isn't sure when GMO wheat will come out. He believes Roundup Ready wheat will be the first one to be released before other herbicide-tolerant wheat varieties come out simply because it is closer to being ready to be released.
Speaking about barley, Blake said new two-row malting barley varieties are gaining acceptance by the brewing companies who have seen acres lost to other crops in the eastern regions of North Dakota and in Minnesota.
Brewers are going more toward contracting less acres, he said.
“What they are expecting to have happen is for the malting companies to be more active in securing the barley for breweries,” Blake said.
Miller is one company that has always operated that way, depending more on the malting companies than on their own contracting effort to get malt barley.
“I think it might turn out to be better for producers to work more with the maltsters than with the brewers. Brewers are tougher customers to work with. Maltsters just want to make sure they can sell their product,” he said.
If producers can meet the maltsters' protein and variety specifications, maltsters may be the better opportunity for producers, he added.
Hockett, a two-row malting barley variety, recently received the okay from the American Malting Barley Associa-tion (AMBA) as an acceptable malt barley for producers to grow next year, Blake said.
“It will probably yield 20 to 30 bushel per acre,” he said.
After extensive testing as experimental variety MT910189, there will be plenty of certified and registered seed available by next spring, he said.
Hockett has produced one-and-a-half times more malting barley grain than Metcalfe, an older Canadian two-row variety.
The new two-row is geared toward producers in the drier regions.
“We really need good precipitation to grow the six-row varieties. Most areas of the state don't have enough water and the kind of growing season to produce good six-row varieties,” Blake said.
North Dakota State University tested Hockett in 2007 and 2008 but not in 2009. One of the reasons could be it was registering at a higher protein than other two-row barleys.
Rich Horsley, IBMS at NDSU, said in trials in southwestern North Dakota, a dry region, Hockett was at 16.2 percent protein, while Pinnacle was running about 13.5 protein and Conlon was nearly 15.
“Montana trials might yield a lower protein with Hockett because of their different climate, higher elevations,” Horsley said. “We really need that protein around 13.5.”
Hockett is susceptible to lodging, however, so would not be a good variety under irrigation. Geraldine would be a better irrigated variety, Blake said.
Geraldine is another new two-row variety for Miller and has moderate stripe rust resistance.
Pinnacle, from NDSU, is its new two-row variety demonstrating high grain yields, a plump seed, lower protein levels and some drought resistance.
It had lower protein than Metcalfe in trials, and accumulated 40 percent less DON (vomitoxin) than Robust, the second most planted variety in Minnesota, according to AMBA. Lacey was the top barley in that state.
According to AMBA's Web site, the variety Charles is the first AMBA-recommended winter barley. It is a two-row winter variety developed by ARS in Aberdeen, Idaho.
While two-row varieties tend to produce more malt per bushel than six-row varieties, they also can be more susceptible to disease.
Tradition, which is a six-row variety from Busch-Ag, has done well in both North Dakota and Montana.
“Tradition is doing as well in the region as any of the six-rows Anheuser-Busch has tested with us,” Blake said.
MSU has both Anheuser-Busch and Coors breeding programs, and both have been collaborating well with the university, he said. MSU also tests for Malt Europe which has its own breeding programs with stations in France and in New Zealand.
“There is a lot of interest from the malting companies with the European varieties,” Blake said.
One of those is Scarlett, a two-row variety out of Germany. The semi-dwarf, however, tends to react the way most European varieties do when planted in the Upper Plains - flowers about a week and a half too late which leads to poor yields, Blake said.
Currently, Blake is testing about a thousand European malting barley lines in Bozeman, Mont., and half of them are late semi-dwarfs which are flowering too late, he said.
“Some of them won't even flower by the time the first snow hits,” he said. “I told the guys in France what you need to do is test the stuff first before you go to the expense of testing them over here. They are doing that with us now.”
Blake is trying to work with those European varieties in collaboration with Anheuser-Busch and Coors.
“We want to make sure that the varieties that get to you fit your environment,” he said. “When they breed stuff to fit southern France, and they say it looks really, really good, that doesn't mean it is going to look good here.”
AMBA, which consists of four brewing companies, including Anheuser-Busch, Miller, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada Brewing Companies, helps fund two-row malting barley variety development programs at MSU and the USDA-ARS National Small Grains Germplasm Research Facility, Aberdeen, Idaho. It also helps fund six-row variety development programs at NDSU, Oregon State University, University of Minnesota and USDA-ARS, Aberdeen, Idaho.