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Volume 36, Number 3, 1999, Pages 359-363

Canadian Malting Barley Varieties for the Future

Michael J. Edney. Canadian Grain Commission, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Presented at the 1999 Canadian Barley Symposium and reprinted from the Proceedings with permisssion.

In recent years, Canadian 2-rowed malting barley has become renowned for its high quality. In the past, though, Canada was thought of as a producer of high protein, 6-rowed barley. The severe weather of Western Canada with its short, hot, dry summers was thought to negate any possibility of producing the plump, low protein, 2-rowed barley demanded by a majority of brewers around the world. In contrast, demand for malting barley in the United States has been and continues to be for high protein, 6-rowed barley. Over the past 10 years this market has also shown increased demand for Canadian malting barley. The increased demand for Canadian malting barley, especially 2-rowed, has resulted from new varieties with good quality. Dedicated breeders and a varietal registration system that emphasizes quality have been key in developing varieties that are now considered standards for quality around the world. As the growers of the new variety, Canadian barley producers also played a role in this rise to prominence. The varieties, though, had to have the agronomics and disease resistance that made them economical to grow, traits that once again trace back to successful breeding programs. However, breeding of Canadian malting barley has not become stagnant since the first success of our varieties on the world market. New breeding objectives for quality have come from the domestic malting and brewing industries as well as from overseas customers of Canadian malting barley. Feedback from the fanning community has indicated which aspects of agronomics and pathology need attention in breeding programs. The information has allowed breeders to develop varieties with improved agronomics and disease resistance for specific areas of Western Canada. Since Harrington's first appearance, more than ten 2-rowed varieties have been registered. These varieties have better yields and disease resistance combined with malting quality equal to or better than Harrington. As well, a number of newer lines are presently in the final stages of testing and these all show specific improvements over Harrington. The new varieties should help maintain Canada's position as a source of quality malting barley.
Keywords: Harrington, 2-rowed, malting barley, 6-rowed barley, varietal registration, Canadian Malting Barley Varieties