Back to top

Production of Quality Malt Barley in New England

Printer-friendly version
Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Sponsoring Unit(s): 
Department of Project: 
UMass Extension
Project Description: 

There has been a steadily increasing demand for craft beer in the United States in the past 2 decades, especially the northeastern and western regions of the country. Currently, there is an insufficient body of research regarding varieties and fertility management plans that would permit growers in the pioneer valley to produce malting-quality barley. Barley must fit into a range of specific quality parameters, such as percent protein and the near absence of Deoxynivalenol (DON, produced by Fusarium head blight), to be suitable for malting. However, malt barley has a price premium ($5.70/bu) over feed barley ($3.37/bu) (June, 2016). This price premium may incentivize production for growers in the region. Consumer demand for locally sourced ingredients, in addition to locally produced beer may provide further economic incentives for regional production. Increased understanding of viable methods for producing malt quality barley in the region would therefore provide economic benefit to local breweries, malt houses, and farmers.

Research goals:

Research goals include determining the influence of seeding date and rate, as well as different N management regimes on yield and quality of malt barley. While high N applications consistently produce higher total yields, it can risk barley too high in protein for malting. Cultivar trials provide information to growers to help them select the best barley type and cultivar for their farm environment and business. Additionally, this research focuses on the developing comprehensive soil fertility and cover cropping recommendations for the production in this region by examining the potential role of green manures in malt barley production.


Research Projects:

Date of Planting and Nitrogen Trial

A two-year trial examining the impact of date of planting and N application timing in fall and spring on winter survival, grain yield and malt quality indices has been completed at the UMass South Deerfield Research Farm.  In both years the winter barley cultivar Wintmalt was planted on the 5, 15, and 25 of September (2014 and 2015). Within each planting date, the presence or absence of a fall nitrogen application (25 lbs/ac) was combined with 3 spring nitrogen applications (25, 45, and 65 lbs/ac) for a total of six nitrogen regimes tested in 2014-2015 and seven (a zero N regime was added) in 2015-2016. This trial has been completed and full results will soon be available.

Impact of Green Manure and Seeding Rates in Winter Barley

In July of 2015 four cover crop treatments (Sunn Hemp, Crimson Clover, Sunn Hemp+Crimson Clover and None) were planted in the U Mass South Deerfield research farm. In early September the cover crops were flail mowed, incorporated and 2 weeks later, Wintmalt and Charles were planted into the residues at 300, 350, and 400 seeds per m2.  This trial was replicated in 2016 in Wintmalt only. A preliminary report from the first year’s results will be published as an extension research report.

Versions of this trial have been replicated at both the University of Vermont and by Matt Zarif of Stone Cow brewery, in Barre MA.

Winter Cultivar Trial

Twenty-seven cultivars were tested from 2015-2016 at the U Mass South Deerfield location, as a part of a multi-university winter cultivar trial, organized by the University of Minnesota. The report from this year’s results will be published as an extension agronomy research report. Thirty cultivars were planted in the fall of 2016 and will be evaluated in the coming season.

Spring Cultivar Trial

The University of Massachusetts is excited to once again be participating in the Eastern Spring Barley Nursery trial, coordinated by North Dakota State University in 2017. While the previous year’s trial faced significant harvest challenges, data from the two years will be combined in to develop spring cultivar recommendations for our region in Fall 2017.



Agriculture topics: 
Crop and Cropping System
Field Crops