Funding for this project is provided through a USDA grant which encompasses the following objectives:

1. Establish a cooperative that will be self-sustaining after 3 years

2. Develop barley varieties adapted to dryland agriculture with malting quality amenable to all-malt brewing

3. Genetically dissect quality traits in multiple environments to understand the impact of environment on quality traits and to identify loci impacting quality stability.

Project summary:

This proposal will establish the Rocky Mountain Malting Barley Cooperative (RMMBC) to meet the needs of an industry that is shifting towards dryland production in the Western U.S. Although barley is well adapted to dryland farming, historic production of malting barley has been in higher moisture to ensure malt quality. In dryland conditions, current barley varieties have an increased risk of rejection due to poor malt quality, resulting in a significant economic loss to farmers of more than half of the potential crop value. Therefore, growers are often reluctant to plant malting barley due to the increased risk, resulting in an unstable malt barley supply for end-users, which will only increase with climate change. In addition, 'all-malt' brewing is a new focus in the beer industry, requiring unique quality traits compared to adjunct-malt brewing, which utilizes additional grains. Currently, most barley breeding is focused on adjunct-brewing, and few efforts exist to improve dryland production. Thus, breeding for all-malt brewing requires a cooperative effort to facilitate this growing sector. Here, we propose a three-year project to establish the RMMBC, bringing together growers, maltsters, brewers and researchers to develop barley varieties adapted to dryland farming with quality traits that facilitate all-malt brewing. The outcomes of this cooperative include (i) the establishment of an academic-industry partnership to design breeding and research priorities for Rocky Mountain barley growers (ii) increased stability for malting quality traits produced in dryland agriculture and (iii) the development of new varieties with enhanced quality for flavor and flavor stability. This cooperative will also facilitate regional production of malt for brewing in the Rocky Mountain region.

Target audience:

The primary product of this grant will be varieties with unique qualities that are being requested by the participants. Growers are requesting lines that will make malt under dryland production and would like to have a stable market for their malting barley. Brewers are requesting malting barley that is locally and sustainably produced with unique quality traits. Collaboration between growers, maltsters, brewers and researchers will ensure that these goals are met. Because the objectives are driven by the stakeholders who are also the participants, adoption of the lines is likely. To ensure the long-term health of the collaborative, new participants will likely need to be attracted by sharing the success of the collaborative at grower and end-user meetings.

Participants and their roles:

Montana Ag Experiment Stations - grow material in a variety of environments and determine best growing conditions for malt stability. Share data with stakeholders.

Montana State University Barley Breeding Program- identify and maintain germplasm, provide genotyping and make crosses to integrate craft phenotypes with necessary agronomics. Share data with stakeholders.

Montana State University Barley Quality Lab - provide micro-malting and quality analysis of early generation material, also test impact of environment on malt quality. Share data with stakeholders.

Colorado State University - provide chemical profiling to understand how barley grain chemistry is influenced by genetics and environment, and how barley grain chemistry is associated with beer flavor and flavor stability. Share data with stakeholders.

Growers of Montana - provide support to the Ag Experiment Station, the MSU Barley Breeding program and the MSU Malt Quality lab through checkoff dollars administrated through the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee. Growers will also test varieties and provide advice on acceptance due to agronomics.

Craft Maltsters - provide in kind support through pilot malts to test advanced lines, provide advice on acceptance of malt lines

All-malt Brewers - provide in kind support through pilot brews to test advanced lines, provide advice on acceptance of malt lines

Brewers Association - provide support to MSU for the establishment of the MSU Barley Quality lab and provide a mechanism to connect the collaborative with other all-malt brewers.


Rocky Mountain Collaborative organizational meetings to initiate and build the collaborative. Screen about 600 heiloom varieties for unique malt quality traits and associate quality with genotype. Lines with unique quality traits will be used in crosses in spring 2018 and inbred so that F4s could be selected using markers in 2019. We will grow F5s in a winter nursery so that we will have enough material for initial testing in the summer of 2020. In addition, barley, malt and beer will be evaluated for variation in small molecules and proteins that are associated with malting quality, flavor and flavor stability. The total number of samples evaluated for biochemical composition include n = 100 barley and malt samples in Year 1, n = 50 samples in Year 2 and 3. A total of n = 25 barley lines will be evaluated using proteomics from barley grain and malt. In addition, the most promising barley lines (agronomic, malting, flavor quality) will be malted and brewed in collaboration with New Belgium Brewing: n=3 beers in Year 1, n = 6 beers in Year 2, and n= 6 beers in Year 3 of the project. All beer will be evaluated by metabolomics, proteomics, sensory, and flavor stability analysis to determine barley varieties that provide superior beer quality. Low protein lines that have the potential of increased stability in dryland farming will be pilot malted and brewed to determine if acceptable to maltsters and brewers. We will grow an association mapping panel, which includes 258 advanced breeding 2-row lines from six breeding programs, in an augmented design in four abiotic stress environments measuring agronomic traits as well as malt quality traits to make marker trait associations for quality stability.

Expected Outcomes:

1. The collaborative will provide a long-term means of providing new varieties with unique traits for the craft malting and all-malt brewing industry.

2. Growers in the Rocky Mountain region will benefit by having another stable market for their barley.

3. Growers' risk in raising malt barley will be mitigated by the creation of lines with stable quality under dryland production.

4. A mechanism will be established to identify and incorporate unique quality traits that will support the all-malt industry.

5. Genetic dissection of quality traits and quality stability will allow for the more efficient release of lines.

6. Malt barley production will be more sustainable and more stable.