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Issue 66 - Fresh Crop

Whisky Magazine Issue 66
September 2007


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Fresh Crop

Ian Wisniewski looks at how companies are developing new barley varieties

The usual question when discussing barley is whether individual varieties can influence the character of the new make spirit, and opinions on this subject vary.

But there are also other ways in which distillers, along with maltsters and farmers, appraise what a barley variety has to offer.

And that's down to performance.

Newer varieties offer an improved yield of alcohol per tonne in the distillery, greater ease of malting for maltsters, while farmers gain an increased yield per acre, together with stronger disease resistance.

Sounds great. But the route to market for a new barley variety can be up to 12 years from inception.

The ultimate goal is appearing on an annual list of approved varieties, published by the IBD (Institute of Brewing and Distilling).

Meanwhile, years of trials makes developing a new barley variety an expensive venture, requiring significant financial investment by plant breeders.

“We have very active commercial plant breeders in the United Kingdom developing new barley varieties, and they may each bring two to three new varieties into the evaluation procedure each year,” says Dr David Griggs, chairman, IBD malting barley committee.

Plant breeders have plenty of motivation to invest in new varieties.

“There's a considerable amount of money to be made from a barley variety which could be on the market for around 10 years, because plant breeders receive a royalty on the sale of seed. Once a variety receives full IBD approval then it's full st...

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