Spring is still the primary season where most malting barley is planted. However, Winter Barley has starting to grow as a contender due to climate change and the increased yield that comes along with the emerging crop. This history on this crop in the US was researched by Eric Stockinger an Associate Professor of Crop Science at Ohio State University and posted online in 2012. The entire paper with references can be found here.


Winter malting barley, a brief history
Emphasis on having winter barleys that possess high malting qualities in part traces to the work of the Austrian geneticist and plant breeder Dr. Erich von Tschermak-Seysenegg, who developed early-maturing, winter hardy two-row barley during the early part of the 20th century. Through crossing of two row spring barley types from the Haná region to winter-hardy two row and six row barleys, and subsequent backcrossing to the two row winter types, Tschermak developed a two-row barley which was extremely winter hardy, more lodging resistant because of shorter stems, and a protein content of 8 – 10% – a property more in line with the Haná spring barleys than with the other winter barleys. Tschermak’s two row winter barley subsequently received 2nd place out of 307 entries submitted to an Austrian Brew Barley exhibition, and appears to be the only winter barley submitted.

In 1933 Dr. G.D.H. Bell at the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge England crossed Tschermak’s two row winter barley to ‘Spratt-Archer’, then one of the two most important spring malting barleys in the United Kingdom, and this led to ‘Pioneer’ (Bell, 1944). ‘Pioneer’ was a significant advancement because it possessed high malting quality character traits in a winter background, but more notable was the progeny from the cross of ‘Pioneer’ to another spring type, ‘Proctor’ (itself an elite malting type of spring barley with genetic roots tracing to landraces in the U.K., Scandinavia, and the Haná region) that led to ‘Maris Otter’, a winter barley having superior malting qualities. ‘Maris Otter’ was first described in 1965 by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and recommended the following year for cultivation in the UK. The UK continues to develop winter barleys having higher yield capacity and more suited for modern malting purposes; and the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board annually publishes a listing of cultivars recommended for the UK. Nonetheless, ‘Maris Otter’ is still preferred by many brewers, and to date has been the most successful winter barley for malting purposes.

In the U.S. Midwest efforts to produce winter barleys suitable for malting were carried out by Dr. John M. Poehlman, a barley and wheat breeder at the University of Missouri. In 1961 Poehlman redirected the efforts of his barley breeding program from one in which development of winter-hardy six-row winter feed barley was the primary driver, to one in which development of winter-hardy, two-row malting-quality barley was the driver. This redirection was the result of an expressed interest in the development of two-row malting- quality winter barley by Anheuser-Bush Inc. At that time Poehlman’s program had already had tremendous success in the development of winter-hardy six-row feed barleys that could be reliably-grown in the area north of Columbia Missouri.

In 1961 and 1962 Poehlman screened 71 two-row European winter barley accessions for their maturity date and their winter hardiness. Included in those trials were Tschermak’s two row winter barley, ‘Pioneer’, and ‘Carstens’. ‘Pioneer’ was eliminated because it was too late in maturity to make it agronomically viable for the region. Of the remaining 70 accessions only Tschermak’s and ‘Carstens’ approached Poehlman’s six-rows in their winter hardiness, nonetheless his six-rows still exhibited superior winter hardiness. Because winter hardiness was (and remains) a critical component of winter barley cultivation in the Midwest Poehlman crossed Tschermak’s and ‘Carstens’ to his six rows, eventually leading to advanced selections exhibiting promising malting-quality characteristics that also possessed winter hardiness levels approaching the six rows. These were increased for commercial malting trial evaluations scheduled for 1976. Although the lines appear to not have made it into commercial production, they represent an early concerted effort between U.S. public and private sectors to develop two-row malting-quality winter barley. The barley lines Poehlman worked with and created through his breeding program have recently become a focus of research in the Stockinger lab because they exhibit a wide spectrum of copy number variation for genes affecting freezing tolerance and winter hardiness.

The first winter barley in the U.S. deemed suitable for malting by AMBA is the two row cultivar ‘Charles’, released by Dr. Don E. Obert, who was at the USDA in Aberdeen Idaho. Obert subsequently released ‘Endeavor’, another two-row winter malting barley cultivar. ‘Charles’ and ‘Endeavor’ have a moderate level of winter hardiness compared to other winter barleys.

Please join us next week when we will lean about Faculative barley from Dr. Patrick Hayes at Oregon State University.