OSU barley breeder Patrick Hayes visits a test planting at Hyslop Farm near Corvallis, Oregon.
OSU barley breeder Patrick Hayes visits a test planting at Hyslop Farm near Corvallis, Oregon.

A versatile new barley variety just released by Oregon State University could lend subtle malt flavors to Northwest craft brews and also give consumers more choice in fiber-rich barley foods.

A second new OSU variety looks like a good choice for high-quality forage production in areas where water is increasingly scarce, said Patrick Hayes, head of OSU’s barley breeding program.

The first new variety, Buck, is a high-yielding winter barley that performs well in a variety of Pacific Northwest conditions, said Hayes, a professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Buck (so named because the kernel is “naked,” lacking an adhering seed hull) stems from a 2003 cross between a hulled feed barley developed at OSU (Strider) and a naked barley from Virginia (Doyce).

In 13 trials conducted at dryland, irrigated and high-rainfall test sites, Buck had an average yield of 5,791 pounds per acre and an average test weight of 60.3 pounds per bushel, making 96 bushels to the acre. Buck is comparable in maturity measures to the feed variety Alba. It is highly resistant to barley stripe rust and stem rust and moderately resistant to scald. It’s also resistant to leaf rust in the limited number of test sites where this disease occurs.

Buck has a soft kernel texture (42.6 SKCS units, a measure of grain hardness), modest grain Beta glucan (4.0 percent) and a grain protein content of 10.6 percent. Slightly more than half an ounce of steamed grain or 1.5 ounces of bread made with 40-percent Buck barley flour would provide the recommended FDA daily fiber allowance.

Buck could also make a novel malt for special beer styles, Hayes said. Most beer is made from barley with hulls, but a naked barley like Buck can have much higher malt extract – a key malting characteristic – than a hulled variety, he said. In three malting-quality tests, Buck had an average malt extract of 86 percent and an enzymatic profile comparable to varieties that meet the specifications of craft maltsters and brewers.  

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, about three-fourths of the U.S. barley crop – 177 million bushels in 2014 – went into beer. The explosion of craft brewing over the past decade has spiked demand for locally sourced barley and hops, Hayes said, and today’s boutique brewers like the subtle flavor notes lent by malt from different barley varieties.

“These brewers like to present a palette of flavors for discriminating consumers,” he said. “Imagine an all-barley Hefeweizen.”

The second new variety, BSR-27, is a spring-habit hooded barley stemming from the cross of two stripe rust-resistant varieties released by OSU in the early 2000s: Tango, for livestock feed, and Sara, for forage.

Results of 2014 trials on four test sites (two each in the Willamette Valley and the Sacramento Valley) show that BSR-27 produced high yields of both seed and forage. BSR-27 had a higher relative feed value (101) than the Haybet, Lavina and Stockford varieties, but lower than the Hays variety (108). BSR-27 is resistant to stripe rust, leaf rust and scald, and tolerant of mildew.

Development of BSR-27 and Buck was funded by OSU’s Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, the Oregon Wheat Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Corvallis Feed and Seed, OreGro Seeds and Tri-State Seed supported field trials of BSR-27.

The variety release documents for Buck and BSR-27 are available online at http://barleyworld.org/osu-varieties. OSU invites expressions of interest in licensing these varieties through the Office of Commercialization and Corporate Development. Please contact Denis Sather at 541-737-8806 (denis.d.sather@oregonstate.edu).