Developing best management practice for growing grain suitable for malt in the Northeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2015: $177,442.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Heather Darby
University of Vermont Extension

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: barley


  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop improvement and selection, crop rotation, nutrient cycling, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Pest Management: biorational pesticides, weed ecology
  • Soil Management: green manures, nutrient mineralization

    Proposal abstract:

    The local foods movement continues to create new markets for farmers. The problem is that the demand for local grains often exceeds the supply of high quality product. One such market is that of grain for malting. The recent opening of 6 new malt operations in VT, MA, NY, and Quebec has given farmers an opportunity to produce a high value grain. These businesses have the potential to purchase at least 750,000 lbs of grains yearly. Unfortunately, current production of grain for malting has not met the demand and hence there is opportunity for at least 25 farmers to grow malt grains on 500 plus acres. Grains for malting grow well in the Northeast, but farmers lack the information needed to produce high quality grains for malt. Therefore new knowledge is needed to help these farms be successful meeting the market demand for malt grains.There is interest in grain production throughout the Northeast as evidenced by increased membership of the Northern Grain Growers Association (NGGA), attendance at outreach events, and requests for information. For example, The NGGA conference attendance has doubled in the last two years with well over 200 attendees. In the last year local malt companies have worked with 10 farmers to procure grains for malting and recent opening of several new companies will provide markets for at least 15 additional farms.We hypothesize that implementation of appropriate practices such as adapted disease resistant varieties; proper planting dates, optimum nitrogen rates, and seed rates will more often result in grain that meets the strict malting standards. Small plot and on-farm research will develop and evaluate best practices for growing barley for malting. Trials will identify commercially available and heirloom germplasm that are adapted to the Northeast climate. Agronomic studies on planting date, nitrogen management and disease control will be initiated.The educational approach is to develop a collaborative outreach program that will increase farmer knowledge base on producing grains for malting. Outreach will include on-farm research, workshops, conferences, YouTube series addressing critical grain quality parameters, and booklet on best strategies for growing malting quality grains in the Northeast. Results will be reviewed by the project advisors and made available on-line from various regional websites.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Objective 1: Develop regionally specific agronomic practices for growing malt grain so farmers will have better success in meeting the standards for this market. Implementation of appropriate practices such as adapted varieties, adequate nitrogen rate and timing, application of disease controls as well as proper planting dates and seed rates will more often result in grain that meets the strict malting standards.

    Objective 2: Deliver educational materials on growing malt barley through a variety of outreach strategies to beneficiaries so they have better success at growing grain for this emerging market.

    Twenty-five farms in the Northeast will implement new production strategies on 500 acres of grain for malting that result in 450,000 lbs of grain making marketable malt with a value of $160,000 while the remaining 300,000 lbs of grain make the feed grade market with a value of $45,000.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.