The following is a summary of efforts at the Winter Malting Barley program at Virginia Tech. The team at VT is comprised of both Barley Breeders as well as the Food Science department. We will be seeing some really comprehensive information coming from programs such as these at VT. 

Thank you to Wynse Brooks and Carl Griffy (Small Grains Breeding and Genetics) and Brian Wiersema (Food Science and Technology).


The Virginia Tech barley-breeding program is the largest and one of only a few surviving programs in the Eastern United States. Our program is significantly diverse with breeding efforts focused on development of superior, widely adapted, high yielding, winter barley cultivars and a major focus on incorporation of value-added traits geared towards development of new markets.  As a result, two winter barley varieties (Amaze 10-hulless and Secretariat-hulled) were released from the breeding program. The white seeded winter hulless barley variety Amaze 10 tested as VA07H-31WS was officially released in April 2013; whereas, the hulled barley variety Secretariat evaluated as VA08B-85 was released in March 2014, and both varieties are targeted for production in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States as a potential commodity for feed, fuel and food.

Meanwhile, increased interest in winter malt barley production by several current and potential craft brewers, maltsters, and producers led the Virginia Tech breeding program to expand efforts to develop malt barley varieties adapted to the mid-Atlantic and south eastern United States. We have initiated population development and a series of field testing trials to develop superior winter malt barley varieties that are widely adapted to these regions.  Our strategy is to select and use superior germplasm from the Uniform Winter Malt Barley Trial (UWMBT) as parents in crosses with elite material from our program.  We will develop winter malting varieties that are valuable to local producers and the malting and brewing industries.  In the 2012-2013 season, we evaluated and identified one superior 2-row malt barley variety (Violetta) in the UWMBT.  This malt barley variety developed by Limagrain has improved grain yield, enhanced malt quality and excellent disease resistance.  It was evaluated for the second year in the 2013-2014 UWMBT and the Virginia Tech malt barley management test and has continued to perform very well in these tests in Virginia. Therefore, we are requesting commercial production of this variety in Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region by 2015. In addition, in order to accelerate the development of superior, widely adapted, high yielding winter malt barley varieties, our breeding program in collaboration with Oregon State University has initiated development of pure lines using double-haploid techniques.  These double-haploid lines were planted in field trials this fall and will be evaluated in the 2014-2015 season. Pure lines possessing good agronomic characteristics and malt quality will be selected and advanced in yield tests in our breeding program.

As you may know, many researchers in the eastern U.S. are just now beginning to conduct research and to develop malt barley varieties.  Such scientific exchanges would be very beneficial to us. The production of winter malt barley in the eastern U.S. would complement spring malt barley production elsewhere in the U.S. and facilitate production of an adequate supply of high quality grain of specialty malt barley for both small and large scale malting and brewing industries. This also will create greater market demand for winter barley.

Thus, the Virginia Tech barley breeding program continues to strive toward improving and developing winter malt barley for Virginia and indeed the eastern U.S regions.