With the explosion of microbreweries in the northeast, along with rising interest in sourcing local ingredients, malt barley offers a promising solution as an alternative specialty grain crop. The goal of this project is to trial this alternative small grain as part of a double cropping system to provide a more profitable means of growing grain crops in New Jersey. We are currently performing a variety trial replicated at two farms in central New Jersey to compare four selected varieties of 2-row (Maja, Scala, Tepee and Wint Malt) and one 6-row (Thoroughbred) malt barley to determine which, if any are promising as alternative winter grain crop in a double cropping system for current grain farmers in New Jersey.
Our primary objective for this trial is as follows: to compare a total of 5 winter malt barley varieties to determine which, if any meet standard quality parameters when produced in a double cropping grain system (between a corn and soybean rotation). We are ultimately looking to determine if planting, maintaining and harvesting winter malt barley will be economically sustainable for grain farmers in New Jersey. We have collaborated with one other grain farmer (Hahola Farms) to provide additional replications of each variety. Our technical advisor Edwin Dager has assisted in the logistics of planning the field preparation, planting depth, seeding population and layout of each replicated trial. An additional technical advisor NJAES Burlington County Agent William Bamka has provided guidance and assistance in field preparation and maintenance of the trial so far.
As corn and soy seed prices continue to rise, while market prices continue to drop, it has become increasingly difficult for farmers to justify growing them as their primary grain crops for income in New Jersey. These commodity grain crops no longer promote an economically sustainable system for farmers. According to a recent New York Times article, farmers that were able to largely avoid the resulting damages the recent financial crisis and Great Recession, are now in the throws of hard economic times. The USDA predicts that farm income will fall as much as 54% from where it was two years ago, making current farm income the third-lowest since the 1980s. Market prices, as determined by the Chicago Board of Trade, have seen stark drops with corn, falling from $7.50 a bushel three years ago to $3.78 a bushel. Similarly, soybeans commanded $15 a bushel two years ago from co-ops who are now offering $8.90 a bushel. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the average size of a New Jersey farm is 71 acres. With a greater number of small acreage grain farms in New Jersey as compared to the Midwest these economic trends, as have already been seen and forecasted for the future, are going to have a damaging impact on the small grain farmers’ ability to remain economically viable. Understanding that the economic hardships facing grain farmers in New Jersey may not be a temporary trend, new opportunities must be explored. Diversification of grain cropping systems to include potentially lucrative crops to benefit not only the farmer, but the surrounding community and infrastructure is the key to reviving an economic sustainable agriculture system, while also promoting environmental and socially sustainable practices.
A feasibility trial for malt barley production was previously done in 1997-98 at Rutgers University. The study examined whether several spring malt barley varieties grown in New Jersey would perform well and have suitable grain characteristics for malt barley to supply the micro brewery industry. Results indicated that the varieties tested grew well in New Jersey’s climate, but did not have suitable grain characteristics for malting. It was concluded that barley could be grown in New Jersey, but its market would be limited to straw production (Bamka, 1999). Since this study, the micro brewery industry in the United States has flourished. In New Jersey alone, there are currently 43 breweries and an additional 40 breweries in planning. This interest has sparked an increasing number of research trials looking at growing and breeding winter malt barley to supply to local breweries in the northeastern US (Garden State Craft Brewers Guild).
A significant portion of the recent research on winter barley production for malting has involved breeding varieties better adapted for production in the northeast climate and enhancement of traits related to malt production. A component of winter malt barley breeding is to hybridize the vigor of a 6-row barley with the malting characteristics of a 2-row barley. Newly developed varieties include Endeavor (developed in collaboration
between the USDA and University of Idaho), and Medina (developed at Cornell University), which are just two of
the newly recommended winter barleys for the northeastern US. Yields and malt characteristics of these varieties
were very promising in northwestern NY trials, where yields were upwards of 50 bu/acre and kernels had lower
percentages of protein content (10-13%) (Darbey, 2015; Varbeten, 2014). As these new varieties are brought
onto the market it is necessary to test their performance in a range of growing zones and until now, little to no
work has been done to assess winter malt varieties in New Jersey.
Bamka, W.J. 1999. “Evaluation of Spring Malting Barley Production”. New Jersey Grain and Forage Journal.
Volume 6. P. 1-5.
Darby, H. 2015. “2014 Winter Barley Variety Trial” University of Vermont Extension.
Schwartz, P. and Horsley, R. “A comparison of North American Two-Row and six-row malting barley”. The
Brewers Market Guide.
Varbeten, B. 2014. “2014 Winter Malting Barley Varieties”. Cornell University Cooperative Extension.
Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, http://njbeer.org/
The trial was laid out at both farms in a randomized complete block design to evaluate 5 different varieties of winter malt barley, four 2-row and one 6-row variety, with 2 replications of each variety at each farm site. Field Preparation: We have deviated from our proposed plan to fertilize in the fall and will instead fertilize the fields in the spring of 2017. Soil test results from spring 2016 have been collected for each field to determine the soil fertility requirements. Corn yields from the fall 2016 will be taken into account when determine how much nitrogen has been extracted and therefore, must be added back to the soil. Following field corn harvest in late September, corn stover was cut down by means of disking (twice per field). Both 5 acre fields were disked for the trial using a 1020 Kewanee Disk on a 4320 John Deere tractor. Each of the field plots are separated by markers to discern varieties and replications within each field.
Planting: The field trial was planted using a 1560 John Deere no-till drill on a 1086 International tractor. The tractor was set to 7.5” spacing between rows and a .75” seeding depth, seedling rates differed based upon variety (seed weight) to obtain a final population of 1.5 millions seeds per acre. Seeding rates were as follows and each plot was .5 acres: Wint Malt: 90.75 lbs per plot Scala: 90.76 lbs per plot Maja: 36.3 lbs per plot Tepee: 72.85 lbs per plot Thoroughbred: 54.5 lbs per plot Swampy Vale Farm Replications 1 and 2 were planted on October 24, 2016. Hahola Farm Replication 1 was planted October 19, 2016, and Replication 2 was planted October 30, 2016. Maintenance: Fertilizer will be applied as per soil test recommendations and corn yield determinations, in the spring of 2017. Bird repellent tape was strung onto stakes throughout each 5 acre field to deter birds, the primary animal pest to disturb barley early in the season. We have and will continue to use integrated pest management threshold levels to monitor whether pesticides are necessary throughout the growing season. This will be most critical in the spring as the weather gets warmer. We have been and continue to record observations of each plot every week throughout the season.
Early season (November 2016) pictures were taken of each plot and compiled into an attached document (EarlySeason(Nov)BarleyFieldPics). Early season data has also been taken on average germination rates, where the plants in three .45ft2 areas of each plot were counted and averaged to extrapolate the number of germinated seeds per acre for each variety. This data is illustrated in SAREBarleyProjectFigure 1. Both Mid season and late season observations will be taken in the early and late spring respectively. The Rutgers University Snyder Research farm is within 5 miles of each farm and the daily weather log taken there will be used for our weather data.
All of the varieties grew well throughout the season. As the barley was beginning to head (seed heads had emerged) the plots were evaluated to compare growth stages. The dates of these evaluations were May 12, 2017 (Jacobson Farm) and April 26, 2017 (Swampy Vale Farm) Field Assessment Approximately 1.5 months before harvest with similar growth stages of each variety in each field. You can see this in the attached document labeled Barley picture growth stages.
Barley was harvested the first week of July at both sites. Moisture at harvest ranged from 5.8-10.6%.
In assessing the yield data at first glance (Figure 1), average yields were generally similar across farms for each variety with the exception of Thoroughbred and Maja. Thoroughbred yielded approximately 30 bu/acre more at the Jacobson farm than Swampy Vale Farm and Maja yielded approximately 20 bu/acre more at the Jacobson farm than Swampy Vale Farm.
Following the initial assessment of yields, an analysis of variance and test of differences in ls means was performed on the data using PROC Mixed in the program SAS v. 9.4 where replication and farm were both designated as a random effects. (Figure 2) The results showed that the average yield of each variety studied were equal at the p<0.05 level of significance.
Figure 3. This is included to show how there is no clear pattern of difference of yields between plots, which would be indicative of significant differences in yield by variety. These differences in yield are likely more correlated to water availability and soil fertility.
In terms of general growth, vigor and yields there were no differences between the 5 varieties. After combining the yield data for all replications at each farm of each variety the differences in yields between varieties were not found to be statistically significant. Recommendations based on our project alone will be contingent on the laboratory results. This includes germination energy, the levels of the fungal toxins (DON test), protein content, plumpness, kernel weight, and ground grain viscosity. All of which are critical in determining the market price of malt barley to malt house buyers.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
We have spoken about this grant project to several local brewers who all showed great interest in sourcing local barley for their beer. Over the next few months we hope to generate greater grassroots support and interest for local malt barley demand in New Jersey. As the demand increases the results from this project will be critical in helping farmers decide which varieties are best to grow in a double cropping system in New Jersey.
We had several education and outreach activities planned for this past year. The first of which was the joint NJ Vegetable Growers Association and NJ Agriculture Convention Meeting (February 6, 2018) where we presented a poster and handouts on the results of the project during the Farm Brewery Crops session. Furthermore, through the two FS Growmark meetings (February 2018), both focusing on grain crops, we gave presentations on the project and provided handouts detailing the results. Finally, the Hunterdon County Board of Ag Meeting (March 7, 2018) included a presentation of results; with the majority of the members being grain farmers.
We will ensure that the results are continually presented in the future at all available opportunities. Including open houses at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Snyder Research Farm.
The attached poster was utilized as a visual teaching aid during all presentations of this project to growers. After each of the three presentations numerous growers asked questions that indicated they had gained significant knowledge about growing barley for malt production. Many farmers had grown small grains, but have never had to meet the same quality standards necessary to sell small grains i.e. barley to a malt house. Questions from farmers ranged from clarification on the spray regimes, fertility requirements, and harvest methods. This information has been critical in laying the ground work for an alternative small grain industry in the state and region.
This project was beneficial in that the grain farmers in the Central New Jersey and Pennsylvania have a greater awareness of which varieties could be most effectively used for malt barley production and of the inputs required to produce a high quality crop. Unfortunately, through this project we also learned it is very difficult to double crop malt barley with corn and/or soybeans due to seasonal time constraints and extreme variability in the weather. Malt barley still has potential to be grown as a stand alone spring crop; however, it will be difficult for growers to consistently produce both a high yielding and high quality barley crop in the region. Through the project we have also learned that a major impediment to malt barley production is proximity to a local malt house, although there are two in our area they quickly reach capacity, which makes the costly farm storage a necessity.
As a result of this project our farm and our collaborating farm: Hahola Farm, have begun to trial different alternative small grains, specifically wheat, for flour production. The quick turn over and significant market demand have made this a similar although more viable alterative small grain market. Although, the integration of this small grain into a double cropping system will likely face the same challenges.
After focusing our project on planting barley, we saw that we should have expanded our trial to include additional alternative small grains i.e. wheat, sorghum or millet, that could be adopted into a double cropping system. The market and more specifically, malt house limitation was an added difficulty in the feasibility of this crop for NJ/PA growers. Ultimately, we see that malt barley production is not feasible in a double cropping system at the moment; however, we do suspect that this could change in the future, especially with the establishment of more local malt houses. From our observations, the potential of a wheat to small grain mill system appears to be a more lucrative double cropped small grain alternative for New Jersey grain farmers.