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New barley breeding efforts aim for a replacement for AC Metcalfe

Breeders have recently focused their efforts on the craft brewers

Aaron Beattie is a barley breeder at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre. Beattie is looking for a replacement for AC Metcalfe.

AC Metcalfe is a high enzymatic variety, so it’s suitable for large-scale brewers. A new variety, CDC Fraser, is also high in enzymes and offers more in terms of disease resistance and yield. The new variety also offers malt characteristics that are attractive to all brewers, Beattie said.

The newly released CDC Bow also shows promise, as it is “very flexible,” said Beattie. “It can be pushed a little more to be a Metcalfe type or it can be backed off a little bit and be used by the craft industry,” he said.

More recently, breeders are focusing their efforts on the craft brewing industry. The University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre recently registered an unnamed variety specifically for the craft brewing industry.

“That was our first specific attempt to meet the needs of the craft brewing industry and through some discussion with some of those folks, it looks like at least on paper, that that variety would have a real nice fit for what those brewers are looking for there,” said Beattie.

All of the new varieties yield higher than AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland. They have better lodging resistance, and some, like CDC Fraser, have good resistance to disease.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Barley Breeding Program, led by barley breeder and research scientist Ana Badea, focuses on two-row malting and two-row hull-less barley for food.

Their most recently released two-row malting varieties are AAC Synergy, AAC Connect, and AAC Goldman. Registered in 2012, market development for AAC Synergy completed in 2017. According to Badea, the variety has a significant yield increase over AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland, and significantly improved foliar disease resistance, particularly to spot blotch resistance. It has higher malt extract than AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland and its unique quality malting profile lends to both the adjunct and craft brewing markets, she said.

AAC Connect was registered in 2015 and completed market development in 2018. It is higher yielding than AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland and noteworthy has moderate resistance to Fusarium head blight (FHB) and lower deoxynivalenol (DON) accumulation. Malt quality is similar to AC Metcalfe, with higher malt extract and friability, said Badea, which makes it a great option for the adjunct brewing market.

AAC Goldman was registered in 2018 and is currently under market development. The variety is higher yielding than AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland, also shows moderate resistance to FHB and lower DON accumulation, and it has a promising malting quality profile with lower malt beta-glucan content and viscosity. Preliminary trials, conducted by Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC), indicate that the variety has a nice flavour profile.

“These new varieties offer desirable malting profiles for both, the adjunct and craft, brewing markets and significant agronomic and disease resistance improvements over the older varieties,” said Badea. “The aim with these new varieties was to replace the older varieties which were mainly used for adjunct brewing, as well as to offer alternatives for the rapidly growing craft brewing industry.”

About the author

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Melanie Epp is a freelance farm writer.

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