Improving winter malting barley quality and developing an understanding of the interactions of introgressions with genetic background (IMPROMALT)

Project number
Lead partner
James Hutton Institute
Industry partners
NIAB, KWS (UK), Limagrain, RAGT, Saaten Union (UK), Secobra, Syngenta, MAGB and SWRI
Government sponsor
Start Date
Apr 2011
End date
Mar 2018
HGCA funding

The problem

There are major concerns from the end-user industries about the long-term sustainability of the barley crop. Many regions in Europe are having to down-grade their malting specifications to source sufficient intake due to inclement climatic conditions. Drought during grain fill can result in increased grain N content and failing to achieve malting specifications, particularly in Eastern England, where much English malting barley is sourced. Such drought conditions are likely to become more frequent and will affect the spring crop much more than the winter crop, which can escape the worst effects of summer drought through a much earlier maturity. Whilst winter barley might therefore provide a more consistent supply, the proportion bought by English maltsters has declined by more than 25% over the past 20 years.

Project aims

The project aims to:
• Utilise knowledge gained from a previous project to introgress specific genetic loci associated with malting quality from the spring into the winter crop, in order to bring the overall quality level of the winter crop up to that of the spring. 

Benefits to the industry

The information from this project will help breeders identify the best crosses to make to achieve specific breeding goals such as improved malting quality. This in turn will benefit the malting, brewing and distilling industries as it will improve the efficiency and sustainability of their businesses. In addition, the greater availability of winter malting barley varieties that meet distillers requirements will benefit the industry as the higher yield of the winter crop means that potential supply problems from an increased demand can better be met from the home market rather than resorting to imports.

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