Examining varieties of alternative grain crop: Malt barley and its efficacy in a double-grain cropping system in New Jersey

2016 Annual Report for FNE16-853

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2016: $14,543.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2019
Grant Recipient: Swampy Vale Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Henry Muehlbauer
Swampy Vale Farm

Examining varieties of alternative grain crop: Malt barley and its efficacy in a double-grain cropping system in New Jersey


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.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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.


Thus far all of the plots have shown good germination (as illustrated in the Figures and pictures below). Winter malt barley success is very contingent upon winter weather, thus the upcoming months will be critical indicators of the success of the overall barley crop.


Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

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.


Ed Dager

[email protected]
Farm Supervisor
Rutgers Snyder Research Farm
140 Locust Grove Road
Pittstown, NJ 08867
Office Phone: 908-730-9419 ext. 3