Cultural practices to improve malt barley quality in the northeast with focus on the craft sector


Mills, A.A.S., Izydorczyk, M., Choo, T.M., Durand, J., Mountain, N., Sorrells, M., Fillmore, S.A.E. (2021). Cultural practices to improve malt barley quality in the northeast with focus on the craft sector. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, [online] 101(1), 39-52.

Plain language summary

The growth of the craft beer sector in North America is driving the demand for locally produced ingredients. The main ingredient in craft beer is malted barley, and the vast majority of malt used in the North American craft beer sector is produced from barley grown in Western Canada. Craft brewers are interested in using locally sourced ingredients, however there is no published information for farmers to help to achieve malt-quality barley in the Northeast. This study measured the effects of two different malt barley varieties (Cerveza and Newdale), two different seeding rates (200 vs. 400 seeds per square meter), and five different rates of nitrogen fertilizer (0, 30, 60, 90 and 120 kg per hectare) on malt quality at five different sites in northeastern North America. Malt quality was achieved at most sites during most years. There were few effects of variety or seeding rate on overall yield or malt quality. However, increasing rates of nitrogen fertilizer resulted in increased yield, but also resulted in and reduced malt quality. These results highlight the challenge faced by farmers who are interested in growing for the craft sector. The need for economic yield for farmers must be reconciled with the need for improved malt quality for craft maltsters and brewers. It is important for craft maltsters and brewers to recognize that barley economic yield and malt quality are inversely related.


Demand is increasing for locally grown malt barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) in northeastern North America, driven primarily by growth in the craft beer sector. A multi-site experiment was conducted to evaluate how variety (V), seeding rate (S), and nitrogen (N) fertilizer affect malt quality in the northeast. Two barley varieties (Cerveza and Newdale), two seeding rates (200 and 400 seeds m−2 ), and five rates of actual applied N fertility (0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 kg ha−1 ) were tested at Charlottetown, PE, Canada, Ithaca, NY, US, Princeville, QC, Canada, and New Liskeard and Ottawa, ON, Canada. Basic agronomic data were collected from all environments including yield, thousand kernel weight, and hectoliter weight. Barley of suitable quality was micromalted and subjected to malt quality analysis. Both V and S resulted in small effects on malt quality, however, N had the greatest effect on most measured variables. Increased rates of N application resulted in increased yield, hectoliter weight, and thousand kernel weight but had a negative effect on most quality traits, especially with increased protein content, reduced fine extract, Kolbach index, and friability, though it increased wort β-glucans. This study shows that for most years at most sites, it is possible to achieve malt quality in the northeast; however, excessive protein and the prevalence of preharvest sprout damage are the main barriers. The results of this study have implications for increased malt barley production for the craft sector as well as potential access to commodity markets for northeastern producers.