How a new malting barley variety for California came to be

Beer made from barley grains has been consumed since ancient Egyptian times. Modern day growers plant what is profitable – and grains for malting barley command higher prices than animal feed grains. Craft beer brews are now popular and consumers’ palates are quite varied. My breeding team was able to create a new malting barley, used to make local craft beers. This is the story of the effort it takes to create a new variety. Barley was a popular crop in the Central Valley of California until more recently when modern irrigation allowed a switch from barley to more profitable wheat. However, when there was a major increase in small breweries and talk of a new malt house nearby, we decided to create a new malting barley variety. How long did it take? Twenty years from initial introductory strains to elite breeding material and varieties! In California, spring cereal varieties are planted in the late fall and winter, unlike the northern Great Plains where spring varieties are spring planted. We evaluated shared plant material at UC Davis for agronomic appearance, freedom from disease, and acceptable grain yield.

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