DESCRIPTION Evaluating the production and economic feasibility of growing malting barley under conventional and organic conditions in the driftless region of Wisconsin. Joe Bragger, Bragger Family Farm: Joe is in partnership with his wife Noel, his brother Dan, and mother Hildegard. They have a diversified farm which includes dairy, beef, poultry, trout, and crop production. They farm a total of 1,000 acres and most crops are fed to their livestock. Bragger Family farms is very hilly, with 30% of their acres having a slope of 25% or greater. Conservation is very important to them and they were the pilot farm for the University of Wisconsin Discovery Farm Program. The Braggers are comfortable with sharing information about their farm and the practices they use. They hosted the Buffalo County Dairy Breakfast (2003) and a statewide conservation day as part of receiving the Wisconsin Conservation Farmer (2001) of the year award, and Aldo Leopold Conservation Award (2011). Malting barley fits into their farm diversification plans, their conservation plans, and their plan for more direct marketing options. Frank Berg, Swinn Valley Acres: Frank is in partnership with his father Melvin on a diversified certified organic dairy and crop farm. They have been certified organic since, 2003 on all of their acres. They farm a total of 450 acres, with about 80 acres in small grains and corn that are planned for the organic cash grain market. The remainder of the acres are in alfalfa, corn, and managed grazing for their dairy operation. Their farm has many steep slopes which are suited to pasture and small grains. They would like to get more involved in direct marketing organic grain, which malting barley would fit into that plan. Frank has participated in malting barley demonstration plots for the past two years. Mike Schlesser, Mike is a sole-proprietor, farming 400 acres with some help and advice from his father. His farm is a diversified beef and crop farm having exited the dairy business in 2011. Mike is looking at direct marketing options on some of his beef and would also like to diversify his crop enterprises with malting barley. Mike is very careful with his soils and looks for ways to maintain profitability and keep soil erosion to a bare minimum. The soils on his farm are very diverse and malting barley may fit well into some of the lighter sandy soils that he has on his farm. Mike has participated in malting barley demonstration plots for the past two years. Matt Danzinger, DS Farms: Matt is in partnership with his brother Patrick on a 500 cow dairy farm. They farm about 1,000 acres of alfalfa, oats and corn and also spread out the ownership cost of machinery by doing some custom harvesting for close neighbors. They are looking to diversify their cropping system by adding winter or spring malting barley to their rotation for improved soil health and to add further diversification to their farming portfolio PROBLEM/SOLUTION Most of the land in the driftless area of western Wisconsin is highly erodible. Diverse farm enterprises are needed to preserve land, control erosion, and provide economic development in small rural communities found along the Mississippi River. Malting barley is one crop that may fit the needs for farmers in this area. Barley provides a cropping alternative to a traditional corn/soybean rotations and promotes soil health, is less erosive than corn and soybeans, and can meet a potential growing demand from craft brewers in the state (and region) for local raw ingredients. Demonstration plots for malting barley have been planted the last two years, but no plot replication or other reliable data has been collected. All of our farms are within 25 miles. This project would allow us to plant replicated small plots and larger field sixed plots to evaluate variety data. We will lease small plot equipment from a local private research company and use our own equipment for the larger field sized (one acre or more) plots. Replicated small plot data is very important to potential buyers of malting barley and field sized data is very important to other farmers. Our research project would study the following: Determine the varieties of spring malting barley which are best suited to Western Wisconsin based on yield and quality. Determine if winter malting barley varieties exist that can meet malting standards and are suited to Western Wisconsin climate conditions. Compare low, medium, and high fertilizer rates in replicated small plots to determine the best rates for high and quality (concerns about protein levels getting too high for malting quality). Data will be analyzed through UW-Extension and the USDA Cereal Crops Research Unit. Farmers involved provide a wide diversity of conditions, including conventional production, organic production, valley climate conditions, bluff top climate conditions, heavy soils, and light (sandy) soils. Quality malting data to use with craft brewers to develop potential markets. Small plot data will be established using primarily conventional tillage, field plots will use both conventional, reduced, and no-till methods. Help develop budgets together with UW-Extension. Leased equipment includes planting, spraying (when necessary), and harvesting equipment. The project includes two years of plot data to make it more reliable and potentially more valuable to end users. Plot data will be analyzed for malting quality by the USDA Cereal Crops Research Unit located in Madison, WI based on the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) standards. Our UW-Extension County Agriculture Agent has a good working relationship with the USDA Unit.TIMELINE 1. Early Spring 2013 — Plant small and field plots at each location 2. May – July (harvest) Monitor plots and keep accurate records of temperature and rainfall. 3. June — Field days at two locations 4. July — Harvest spring plots 5. August — Clean seed and submit samples for Quality and DON (toxic byproduct of fusarium head blight) testing 6. September — Prepare for winter plot 7. October — Plant winter plot 8. November — Write up plot data from spring plots 9. December — Have fact sheets prepared and posted on the Buffalo County Extension webpage 10. Repeat steps for year two 11. December — 2014 write up final results in fact sheet form after receiving data from the USDA lab. This fact sheet will analyze data from both years. PREVIOUS RESEARCH A 2006 SARE Project titled, “Meeting the Needs of the Michigan Craft Brewing Industry: The Potential of Barley and Hops as Alternative Crops”, project leader Wendell Banks was reviewed. Like ours, one of the main concerns was can quality malting barley be grown with the climatic conditions in the upper Midwest. The project indicated that in that year quality malting barley was achieved. The project report did not indicate what quality standards were used or what the actual results were. Malting barley quality is also very dependent on weather. Our project would look at two years of data in Western Wisconsin. Quality will be based on AMBA standards for the brewing industry. Research data from Oregon State University, the University of Vermont, and the University of Minnesota were reviewed. They have good variety production data from each of their locations and this information will be used to select the varieties to be used in our project. Quality data has not been determined except for Oregon State, whose climate is vastly different from Western Wisconsin. Minnesota data is mainly from the dryer regions of the state. OUTREACH Field days will be held in cooperation with University of Wisconsin-Cooperative Extension Service. Plot information will be posted in the fields for viewing at the field days. Field days will be focused on production data and quality data as it becomes available. At least two field days will be held each year, rotating among our farms. Field days the second year will include production information, first year testing data, and economic data from the first year plots. Production facts sheets and budgets will be developed in cooperation with UW-Cooperative Extension. Fact sheets will be no more than one page in length and cover topics on production, rotation benefits, quality factors, and economics. Fact sheets will be available upon request and posted on the UW-Cooperative Extension County website. Facebook will also be used to advertise field days and disseminate fact sheets. EVALUATION The following will be measured each year: 1. Production measurements – cooperation between farmers and UW-Cooperative Extensiono Stand counts of each plot o Weed pressure in plots o Standability of varieties o Date of maturity o Variety yield o DON levels in cleaned harvest grain 2. Samples will be collected from plots and sent to the USDA Cereal Crops Research Unit for malting quality analysis. 3. NRCS will calculate soil loss at each site and compare with corn/soybean rotations. 4. A one year economic review will be developed comparing economics of malting barley to other crops. 5. A final summary economic review will be developed include crop production economic spreadsheets. 6. A survey of 3 – 5 Wisconsin craft brewers will be conducted to determine if local Western Wisconsin malting barley will meet their standards. Photos will be used to document production information when appropriate.
Most of the land in the driftless area of western Wisconsin is highly erodible. Diverse farm enterprises are needed to preserve land, control erosion, and provide economic development in small rural communities found along the Mississippi River. Malting barley is one crop that may fit the needs for farmers in this area. Barley provides a cropping alternative to traditional corn/soybean rotations and promotes soil health, is less erosive than corn and soybeans, and can meet a potential growing demand from craft brewers in the state (and region) for local raw ingredients.
Our research project would study the following:
- Determine the varieties of spring malting barley which are best suited to Western Wisconsin based on yield and quality.
- Determine if winter malting barley varieties exist that can meet malting standards and are suited to Western Wisconsin climate conditions.
- Compare low, medium, and high fertilizer rates in replicated small plots to determine the best rates for high and quality (concerns about protein levels getting too high for malting quality).
- Data will be analyzed through UW-Extension and the USDA Cereal Crops Research Unit.
- Farmers involved provide a wide diversity of conditions, including conventional production, organic production, valley climate conditions, bluff top climate conditions, heavy soils, and light (sandy) soils.
- Quality malting data to use with craft brewers to develop potential markets.
- Small plot data will be established using primarily conventional tillage, field plots will use both conventional, reduced, and no-till methods.
- Help develop budgets together with UW-Extension.
Research Plots were established and evaluated in three locations each year. Variety trials were part of the research each year to evaluate yield, malting quality, and DON levels of each variety. Seeding rate was studied two years, fertilize rates were studied for two years, and fungicide rates were studied for one year. Variety, fertilizer, and fungicide plots have all been planted in replicated plots in 2015 and will be evaluated following harvest. Plots were all planted using leased plot equipment including a 7 row cone plot planter, matching four foot plot combine, and small four foot modified plot sprayer.
A twilight field day was held each year (and will be held again in 2015) at the plots close to harvest. Barley specialist from the University of Minnesota and Plant Pathology Specialist from the University of Wisconsin participated in the twilight meetings. Malting barley information was also shared each year at the UW-Extension annual craft brewing raw ingredient conference.
A tour was along organized to take farmers to Rahr Malting in Shakopee, MN to observe a state of the art commercial malting facility and to discuss Rahr’s desire to secure malting barley from western Wisconsin.
Replicated results showed the following results:
- Pinnacle malting barley, a 2-row variety from North Dakota gave the most consistent yield and quality among all of the 2-row malting barley varieties tested. Plot average yield was above 80 bushels per acre with pinnacle yielding consistently over 85 bushels.
- Quest malting barley, a 6-row variety from Minnesota gave the most consistent yield and quality among all of three 6-row malting barley varieties tested. Quest did tend to be a little high in protein. Rasmussen another 6 row variety from Minnesota had a better protein profile but produced very dark kernels and lower yields than Quest. Quest consistently yielded over 90 bushels per acre.
- Weed control was not an issue. A low rate of Huskie herbicide was used to control broadleaf weeds. Late season grass (mostly foxtail) was an issue in one of the plots one year. All participants do have very good weed management in all of their crops. This was true even with the late planting date in all years except 2015.
- Fungicide use seems to be a necessity. Two applications were used on the plots all three years. Check plots were left in 2014 without fungicides. These checks yielded about 50% less than plots sprayed with fungicides, they also had DON levels 2-3 times higher than treated plots making them unacceptable for the malting industry.
- Fertilizer rates of 0, 30, 60, and 90 pounds of nitrogen were used on 6 different varieties. These were evaluated on malting barley following soybeans. Yields indicated that there was no benefit to added nitrogen to yields of malting barley following soybeans in 2014. Pinnacle showed no effects to total protein levels. All other varieties had negative effects (meaning higher protein levels) from levels of added nitrogen above 30 pounds leading to protein levels too high to meet malting quality standards.
Impact of Results/Outcomes
The top result of this project is that 5 Buffalo County farmers have agreed and have planted 115 acres of Pinnacle malting barley for Rahr Malting. Rahr Malting will do all the quality testing on the samples delivered to them prior to delivery. The farmers will store the barley cooperatively for all the samples that meet malting grade. Hopefully, this will lead to a long term relationship with Rahr Malting.
About 30 farmers have participated in the twilight field days. If the malting trial works out this year with Rahr Malting, more farmers are likely to be interested in the future. One farmer who attended the twilight meetings has planted about 500 acres of barley hoping to make malting grade, but having a feeding alternative as a backup plan.
All the barley plantings will significantly reduce soil loss potential in comparison to the corn or soybeans that would have been planted. The addition of a small grain will also benefit the traditional corn and soybean rotation in all agronomic factors.
The five farmers are also looking into the potential to malt some of their own malting barley production in a small scale malting production facility.
Educational & Outreach Activities
To view a video of this SARE project follow this link:https://youtu.be/ySuScQHSkSs
Future study is needed to determine if organic malting barley production can be feasible in western Wisconsin. At this point in time, Quest 6-row is the only variety that was tested that has some resistance to Fusarium Head blight and may have low enough DON levels to meet malting grade. Quest tends to have fairly high protein levels which makes it less desirable to maltsters and brewers. Maltsters and brewers also do not prefer 6-row barley varieties for malting. A new variety from North Dakota named Genesis was released this year and is included in the 2015 trials. It also has some resistance to Fusarium Head blight and is a 2-row variety. This may have potential in the organic malting barley industry if it performs as well in western Wisconsin as it has in North Dakota. If it does well in the conventional test plot this year, it will be put into an organic trial in 2016.
Participating farmers will develop a dialog with interested craft brewers to further explore a local malting facility.
This project will continue for at least two more years with funding from different sources. We have been participating in a winter barley trial with the University of Minnesota, with great winter survival this year. We also included fungicide trials and another nitrogen rate trial in the spring plots in 2015. This project gave us a good start and farmers have an interest in growing a different crop which is also more conservation friendly.