New Two-Row Barley Varieties On The Way

“You have to throw away about 99 per cent of it in order to keep the good one per cent.

Barley breeding is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Bill Legge, a research scientist at the Brandon Research Centre specializing in two-row barley, will be adding a fourth variety in the coming weeks to the three needles that he uncovered in the past two to three years based on exhaustive work that began in 1987.

The new cultivars were gleaned from his work with 1,100 breeding lines in 1,800 yield plots that can be seen along Grand Valley Road in front of the main building at AAFC Brandon. The best of the best go on to registration trials.

Feeding into the yield testing part of his program are some 15,000 F5 and F6 lines that are first run through leaf disease and fusarium head blight (FHB) nurseries to gauge their level of resistance. He also has about 150 crosses at the F1 to F4 stage.

“You have to throw away about 99 per cent of it in order to keep the good one per cent,” he said with a chuckle.


Norman, a cultivar selected from CDC Kendall, offers 25 to 30 per cent lower deoxynivalenol or DON levels, but with similar malting quality, is a joint release with the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre.

Major, a higher-yielding barley with better agronomic traits and disease resistance than the dominant two row for the past decade or so, AC Metcalfe, but with similar malting quality, also sprung from his program.

HB705, as yet unnamed, is one of two new hulless varieties to be released for malting

and brewing purposes. Hulless varieties produce more malt extract, possibly because less energy is spent on producing fibre for the hull.

The fourth and latest, called TR06294 as the regist ration process is pending, it is higher yielding and with better disease resistance than AC Metcalfe, said Legge. It is also consistently higher in malt extract and lower in soluble protein.

“It’s very similar to Major, in terms of its agronomics and disease resistance,” he said. “It was almost 10 per cent higher yielding than AC Metcalfe was in registration trials.”


The quality package is a little different, he added. Farmers will be able to get a sneak preview of the new cultivars in MCVET trials this summer, but it might be a couple more years before they are available commercially.

New fungicide chemistry may help, but beat ing back FHB will probably take more than just advances in cereal breeding, said Legge, who believes that it has been expanding its range and evolving to become more virulent due to a combination of reasons.

Some researchers, most notably retired Purdue University professor Don Huber, see a link between FHB and the increased use of glyphosate over the past three decades. But Legge said that the disease could be an indicator of creeping climate change as well as an unintended result of reduced tillage agriculture.

“In the mid-1990s, we were growing a lot of highly susceptible varieties in the wheats and the barleys, especially the six rows, which as it turns out are a lot more susceptible and have higher DON levels,” he said, adding that the trend towards more corn acres in Manitoba may also have played a role.

“It’s definitely a good spreader of fusarium,” said Legge. “Keep your cereal crops away from it the following year, if you can.” [email protected]

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