HERMISTON, Ore. — Oregon State University is poised to release several new varieties of barley for growers looking to tap into the beer, food and animal feed markets.
Daniela Carrijo, a postdoctoral student and agronomist with Barley World — the barley breeding program at OSU — provided an update of research projects Dec. 5 at the 46th annual Hermiston Farm Fair, held at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center.
Barley World researchers are participating in a three-year, five-state project funded by the USDA to study "naked" barley, where the grain is naturally stripped of its outer-layer hull that is otherwise indigestible.
"Some advantages of naked barley is that it is edible as is," Carrijo said. "It's also considered a whole grain."
OSU has already released a few varieties of naked barley, with cheeky names like "Buck" and "Streaker." Naked barley has been around for 10,000 years, the result of a genetic mutation.
The key, Carrijo said, is how easily hulls are removed from the grain during threshing. While the U.S. does not have standards for food-grade barley, Canada requires the grain contain no more than 5% attached hulls, and 15% for feed.
Naked barley could open some new and potentially higher-value opportunities for growers, Carrijo said. She is especially optimistic about barley for food. The grain is a rich source of beta-glucan, which can help lower cholesterol and may reduce heart disease.
Naked barley also offers higher levels of soluble fiber, higher protein in animal feed and potentially higher levels of malt extract in brewing, Carrijo said.
In other projects, Barley World is working toward developing a barley variety resistant to the herbicide Imazamox, which would allow it to be planted in rotation with wheat under certain practices. Field trials are slated to begin in 2020.
"Barley is a really attractive option for wheat rotation," Carrijo said. "It can help break the cycle of soil borne diseases."
Barley World is also looking at expanding barley feed to poultry. While researchers worried that high levels of fiber and beta-glucan might be a problem for hens, Carrijo said the results of their experiments have been pleasantly surprising.
The team mixed barley in feed for laying hens at ratios of zero, 30% and 50%. Chicken performance and egg quality were similar across all treatments, Carrijo said.
"The only thing they noticed was the yolk color was a little less intense in the barley treatments," she said. "That's mostly a consumer preference. We'd like the yolk to be a little more yellow."
Looking ahead, Barley World has two upcoming varieties slated for release. The first, a naked barley, has measured moderate levels of beta-glucan, while showing good resistance to diseases like stripe rust.
The second is a covered barley, championed by Great Western Malting in Vancouver, Wash. It is now in the American Malting Barley Association approval pipeline. Neither variety has yet been named.