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New barley technologies discussed at Grower Days

MOORHEAD, Minn. — As part of a "Grower Days" event to say thank you to barley growers, Anheuser-Busch showed growers some of the latest in technology and research in the beer development process.

Joshua Butler, a Colorado-based barley breeder with Anheuser-Busch, says the goal is to develop new barley varieties for Budweiser beer. Barley is transitioning to two-row barley from six row.

"There's some advantages of two row," he says. "One is it does have higher extract. Two, it's believed that there's higher yield potential in two rows and finally there's generally lower protein content."

Josh Gackle, who farms near Kulm, N.D., says two-row barley has gone over well on his operation. He attended Grower Days to learn more about the crop. He started growing barley because small grains fit well into his rotation and wheat prices had dropped. He says he learns from other farmers at events like Grower Days.

"Part of it is seeing all these other growers," he says. "That's been really beneficial to visit with people from other parts of the state who are growing barley, but maybe different varieties."

Jochum Wiersma, a University of Minnesota agronomist who focuses on barley, says he's working on a public study to develop a hearty winter barley variety. Barley acres have been dwindling since the 1970s, and they're looking for ways to incorporate more barley into no-till systems.

"It is more and more for difficult for the large brewers and even the micro brewers to source adequate barely of the right quality to feed the malt houses and the brew houses. And so, It's a way to get into more acres because now we can go farther south with the barley," he says.

Wiersma says it will be about 20 years before a winter variety is ready for this region.

"We're not there yet," he says.

Another area of research important to barley is Fusarium Head Blight. Also called "scab," Fusarium Head Blight is a fungal disease that causes yield loss and reduced grain quality.

"It's a big problem," Butler says. "It produces a toxin that we don't want in our barley. So, there's also a lot of federal initiatives and research that's going on, revolving around that too."

Butler says North Dakota growers are essential to producing Budweiser products.

"We don't have good beer without good barley and the North Dakota growers are very important for that," he says.

Watch the entire episode of Agweek TV here.

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