Indepth: National Barley Research Cluster

Barley research is expected to leap forward in the coming years thanks to a national barley research cluster project which has been given the go-ahead by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The project spear-headed by Alberta Barley, which includes the Western Grains Research Foundation, the Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute, the Rahr Corporation, the Atlantic Grains Council and the Barley Council of Canada as partners, is expected to push barley research to the next level.

WGRF Board Chair David Sefton tells Rural Roots Canada this means they can continue to build on what they are already doing.

“Our goal has always been to continually improve the barley varieties and of course continue to move barley up the value chain with respect to malt barley and emerging food barley markets,” said Sefton.

BMBRI President and CEO Michael Brophy says this cluster will only improve on what is already being done.

“I think the fact that it is happening under one common initiative where everybody is working together leads to a more focussed use of industry funding and government funding,” said Brophy.  “It also helps us leverage our industry funding better.  From our perspective the industry funding that we are putting on the table together with the grower funding from Alberta barley growers and barley growers in other provinces is leveraging 3 dollars for every one dollar of industry dollars we put on the table.  That is very important because the taxpayers know that their funding is being put to good use.”

Brophy says they are supporting a number of research projects at different sites across Canada with the aim to make barley more attractive for producers down the road.

“Across the board all of the projects that are being funded with the government funding and the consortium funding are very much geared towards making malting barley a viable and competitive crop for growers in the future.”

Sefton says farmers are always making decisions on what returns the best value on a per acre basis.

“At the present time if you are not receiving malt grade and malt contracts, barley is not a strong competitor for acres,” said Sefton.  “What we are hoping to do by improving the varieties that are out there for malt is to get more malt barley out to not just the domestic market but the world market.”

Barley Council of Canada Chair Brian Otto says they are pleased that these projects focus on market pull for high quality Canadian feed, malt, malt products and healthy food, which will provide the incentive for producers to seed more acres to barley.

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Gerry Ritz announced funding for the research cluster last year.