Farmers will be able to plant Oregon State University’s new malting barley variety Thunder next fall.
The winter barley variety is the university’s first malting barley variety approved by the American Malting Barley Association, said Patrick Hayes, professor for OSU’s Barley Project.
“The AMBA approval process is arduous,” Hayes said. “To have succeeded in that process means the variety has a very high likelihood of making excellent malt in the hands of different maltsters, and that malt will make excellent beer in the hands of different brewers.”
AMBA named the winter two-row variety to its list of 2019 recommended varieties in January. OSU approved the variety Feb. 11.
Thunder is intended for fall planting and not suitable for spring planting. Hayes said.
It has a cold tolerance similar to its parent, Wintmalt.
“The winter we’re having right now is going to be a good test of that,” Hayes said.
Hayes recommends maximizing crop residue on the soil surface to enhance opportunities for the variety to survive the winter. He also recommends nitrogen management.
The university is soliciting interest in non-exclusive licenses, Hayes said. Multiple seed companies are encouraged to get a license through OSU’s Office of Commercialization and Corporate Development. The non-exclusive licenses ensures Thunder seed is widely available and not dominated by any single player in the industry, Hayes said.
Thunder’s malting profile will appeal to brewers who use adjunct sources of starches and some craft brewing sectors, Hayes said.
Spring malting barley varieties are more common, while winter varieties are relatively new, he said. Charles, one of two University of Idaho winter malting barleys, is also a parent of Thunder.
“We want to promote winter barley as an option for growers because it will allow for generally higher yields with less water input,” he said.
For dryland farmers, winter barleys will mature before moisture runs out in high temperatures, he said.
Great Western Malting has supported research testing of the variety in Idaho and Oregon.
Having a competitive winter barley reduces the risk of weather impacts affecting crop quality and quantity, said Mike O’Toole, Great Western president.
Foundation seed will be available this fall in limited amounts. Seed should be widely available in fall of 2020, Hayes said.
“Every plant breeder’s dream is to see their variety widely used and stimulating economic development, and making people happy,” he said. “The more beers I can sample that are brewed with Thunder barley, I’ll feel a greater sense of accomplishment.”