Exploring Malted Barley Production, Resiliency of Soils and Economic Sustainability in Nebraska

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2018: $29,990.00
Projected End Date: 04/06/2020
Grant Recipient: Rigg Soil Solutions
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Zachary Rigg
Rigg Soil Solutions

Information Products


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, soybeans


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, crop improvement and selection, crop rotation, double cropping, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: demonstration
  • Energy: byproduct utilization
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, farm-to-institution, farm-to-restaurant
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: prevention
  • Production Systems: dryland farming
  • Soil Management: composting, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, urban/rural integration


    Nebraska’s growers are struggling to integrate sustainable cropping systems vs. the customary corn and soybean systems. Primarily because of economic and climate constraints, crop rotations have not changed.  

    We explored the viability of malted barley production. Expanding crop diversity with barley would impact soil biology, increase unique residue covers and enhance soil resiliency. It would also allow double cropping through legumes or grazing cover crops.

    Winter barley production in Nebraska has been unreliable primarily because of winter kill. Dr. Stephen Baenziger’s research, University of NE-Lincoln, is demonstrating initial success with barley production. He is introducing new and hardier varieties that are adapted to our climate. We compared forms of nutrients and examined interplay with soil temperature, moisture and surface air temperature as well as determine if the barley meets brewers’ specifications.

    It appears that the combination of improved genetics and soil cropping systems managed to mitigate climate impacts will sustain winter barley production in Nebraska. There are still two major challenges to proving if this crop is economically viable: 1) the market for a premium buyer requires significant logistical investments of time and infrastructure; and 2) managing planting, spraying, and harvest within a corn-bean rotation more often than not leads to less than desirable planting dates. 

    Project objectives:

    • Determine if winter malted barley is viable to crop rotations in Nebraska and is economically sustainable
    • Examine the impact of prior crop rotations upon the physical, biological and chemical properties of the soil and weather resiliency
    • Assess the impact of barley upon soil and air temperature and soil moisture
    • Compare nutrients and identify the fertility requirements for Nebraska's soils that meet barley brewing standards
    • Determine if malted barley can be grown to meet brewing standards
    • Establish a network and contact list for barley producers with the brewing industry
    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.