Beer is big business in Australia—which means barley production is also big business.
In fact, with an annual farm-gate value of $1.5 billion, it’s this country’s second largest field crop. What’s more, Australia makes up more than 30 percent of the world’s malting barley trade (and about 20 percent of the world’s feed barley trade).
What many beer drinkers may not realise, however, is that the University of Adelaide plays a big part in the barley that eventually becomes the beer we drink around the barbecue.
It’s also integral in the development of barley for export into the Asian market,which uses a different brewing process to that used here.
In most Asian style beers, a solid form of starch, such as rice, sorghum or corn is added as additional sugar in the brewing process, where as Australian beer is brewed using actual sugar.
All this means in simple terms, is that barley used for the export market needs to work harder to convert the added starch into sugar.
With the help of the university’s Barley Program, led by Associate Professor Jason Eglinton (pictured), the Australian barley industry has raised the bar on new varieties designed for the ‘starch adjunct’. In fact, the quality of Australian malting barleys is now considered the best in the world by international customers.
The efforts of Australia’s barley breeders have now delivered several new varieties, increasing market share and improving productivity of Asian brewers.
Bespoke varieties have also been developed in collaboration with key brewers to specifically suit their requirements.
SouthernStar was produced with Sapporo Breweries and Charger was bred with Carlsberg and Heineken Breweries for exclusive use in their premium beer brands.
In the mean time, back home, varieties developed through the Barley Program are dominating the domestic brewing market and a new variety—Navigator—will add more value to the Australian industry.
“Navigator has a lot going for it,” said Associate Professor Eglinton. “It sets a new benchmark for the amount of beer that can be produced from a tonne of barley and for farmers the physical grain quality and yield potential are also significantly improved.”
Barley breeding first began at the University of Adelaide in 1956 and since then varieties developed at the Waite Campus have accounted for more than 50 percent of national production. The broader barley breeding program has received significant support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and a consortium of other industry players.
New barley varieties have improved farm profitability with impressive yield increases across South Australia averaging 4.4 percent per annum.
These researchers have been working closely with both the barley and the brewing industry for nearly 60 years for the benefit of all.
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