Alberta Barley

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Impact of microbial communities on malt properties in commercial malting

Project leads:
Dr. Tom Graefenhan
Research Scientist, Mycologist
Canadian Grain Commission

Dr. T. Kelly Turkington
Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Timeline: April 2013 – March 2018



Alberta Barley funding: $112,469
Total funding from other partners: $714,912

Benefits for barley farmers
A higher degree of microbial diversity irrespective of species composition might stabilize or even improve malt characteristics. After key organisms are identified and their role in the malting process can be verified, specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction assays will be designed to select for or avoid grain and malt lots containing these microbes on a more cost-efficient basis.

Microbial communities carried by barley can greatly influence malt quality and, subsequently, other products in the malt value chain—particularly beer. The project aims to generate DNA sequence data and microbial species information in order to address knowledge gaps that currently exist regarding the diversity, composition and fate of microbial communities during different stages of commercial malting.

Recent developments
Trials were conducted in 2015 to assess the variability and nature of the pathogens that cause scald, net blotch and stripe rust of barley. In 2015, levels of scald were lower on Manny, and Sundre, which may be a reflection of less conducive weather conditions in 2015. There was limited scald development in the scald race variation test for 2015 as a result of drought conditions in central Alberta. Disease surveys were conducted during the summer of 2015. Growing conditions in central Alberta were poor in May and June with much lower than normal levels of precipitation, but with near average temperatures. In July and August conditions were near average for both precipitation and temperature. Disease development throughout the surveyed region was lower than found in previous years. Increased spot blotch in central Alberta was observed and this may temporarily reflect the prevailing weather conditions in 2015; the appearance of this disease has been noted over several years and this suggests it may warrant more effort in relation to surveying and screening barley varieties and germplasm in central Alberta. P. striiformis samples were collected from wheat, barley, foxtail barley and triticale from central Alberta in 2014 and 2015. Collection and purification of urediniospores from leaf samples and subsequent determination of forma specialis and virulence are underway.

Objectives for the upcoming year
The project will continue with the same objectives next year.

Last updated June 2016