Last year the Guild’s Research and Variety Committee met in Denver. We discussed some of the challenges that Craft Maltsters face. One challenge is the lack regionally adapted barley varieties. Another challenge is the lack of information about which current barley varieties may grow successfully in a particular region. Like Maine or Michigan.
UMASS recieving their seed for the UESMBN.
At this meeting Rich Horsley (NDSU Barley Breeder) suggested that we try  a URN (Uniform Research Nursery). The purpose of a URN is to take a collection of varieties that maltsters, breeders, growers, and brewers are interested in. We then partner with Universities from multiple locations throughout the country to perform variety trials.
In early 2015 we sent an email to 8 universities asking if they would have any interest in participating in a coordinated effort.  Despite having limited funding to support their work, every single university replied yes! The enthusiasm to participate in a coordinated effort was evident and so the ball started rolling. We even picked up a few Canadians along the way. The following are the 10 collaborators participating in what we now call the Uniform Eastern Spring Malting Barley Nursery (UESMBN):
Ohio State
UMASS Amherst
University of Maine
Michigan State University
University of Vermont
AgriFoodCanada PrinceEdwardIsland
Semican (Quebec)
Once we had collaborators the next important task was to decide which varieties would make it into the trials. Being the first year, we tried to keep the amount of entries manageable, especially since NDSU was volunteering their time to coordinate obtaining all the seed a disseminating it to each collaborator. We polled Craft Maltsters and collaborators to come up with this final list:
Entries Row type Developer
AAC Synergy 2-row Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada 
AC Metcalfe 2-row Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada 
Newdale 2-row Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Cerveza 2-row Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada 
CDC Copeland 2-row Crop Development Centre (University of Saskatchewan)
CDC Meredith 2-row Crop Development Centre (University of Saskatchewan)
Bentley 2-row Field Crop Development Centre (Lacombe, Alberta, Canada)
Harrington 2-row Crop Development Centre (University of Saskatchewan)
Robust 6-row Univeristy of Minnesota
Klages 2-row USDA-ARS Aberdeen, ID
Conlon 2-row North Dakota State University
ND Genesis 2-row North Dakota State University
Pinnacle 2-row North Dakota State University
Full Pint 2-row Oregon State University
Scarlett 2-row Saatzucht Josef Breun GmbH & Co
Innovation 6-row Busch Agricultural Resources, LLC
Tradition 6-row Busch Agricultural Resources, LLC
ND22421 6-row North Dakota State University
Quest 6-row Univeristy of Minnesota
Lacey 6-row University of Minnesota
University of Maine recieving seed for variety trials.
University of Maine recieving seed for variety trials.

As spring makes it’s way, collaborators have now received their packages filled with barley seed. So what happens now? Each collaborator will plant plots of each of these barley varieties according to an agreed upon protocol. As the barley grows, the varieties at each site will be observed and collaborators will provide data on heading date, plant height, and yield.  If lodging or foliar diseases are present, data on those traits will also be collected.  Once harvested, NDSU will again volunteer to receive all this data from collaborators and create a final report that will be available to all. The the barley will be evaluated for its quality such as test weight, protein content, percent plump kernels, and for some, their malt quality.


Not only will the UESMBN give us valuable information that will support many growers, maltsters, and brewers but it also highlights the spirit of collaboration that our industry has.


If you are interested in learning about other URN projects:
Kevin Smith (Minnesota State University Barley Breeder) coordinates a Winter Malting Barley URN.