Research Focus Areas of the MSU Breeding Program




Genetic Disection


Why research barley at MSU?

  • Production has moved west

    • U.S. barley acres in the Midwest have been declining due to competition from other crops such as corn and soy beans as well as high risk of fungal disease (specifically Fusarium Head Blight, FHB or "Scab")
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    Montanan's plant more barley acres than any state

    • Other large producers are also within our region including Idaho and the Dakotas

  • Barley is an important part of crop rotation to manage pests

    • such as wheat stem sawfly and cheat grass

  • Barley has many end-uses providing multiple markets for growers

    • Malt barley has the highest economic return



Grower Issues

  • 80% of Montana farmland is rainfed
  • Barley grown on rainfed is more likely to be rejected for malt
  • Revenue lost when rejected for malt due to poor quality
  • Primary reason for rejection:
    • High protein
    • Poor plumps


MSU Barley Crossing Block by Year:

Breeding Goals 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Spring Breeding  
High yield, high quality malt or feed 90 87 29 39 19 13

Heirloom malt

    75 90 94 76
Food 19 21 23     16
Forage 12 12 11 14 5 46
Purple malt for food 15 23 6   8 20
Digestibility     4      
Lodging resistance 11 1        
FHB resistance 14 22 13 12 8  
Extended grain-fill (high yield, stable quality) 31 12 7      
Spot Form of Net Blotch Resistance 3 12       14
Nematode resistance 4 10 1      
Stripe Rust     2   4 12
Beer staling resistance 6          
Acid Tolerance     20 11 4  
Low proline         6  
Low GN         2  
Winter Breeding  
Forage         8 39
Feed/Cold Tolerance         21 57
Malt         45 53
Food         1  
Hull-less           3
Low B-glucan           4
Low GN           2
Stay Green           4
Fast hydrating/dormant           8
Low proline           1


Breeding Program - Flow from 1st cross to variety release

Core nurseries conducted each year for the barley breeding program. For locations other than Bozeman, the work is accomplished by the Research Center faculty and staff.

Nursery Number of Lines Location Notes
Crossing Block Intercrossing of about 100 parents Bozeman - Plant Growth Center Parents include superior varieties from MSU and other regional programs as well as diverse germplasm from around the world.
F1 150 Bozeman - Plant Growth Center First generation following crossing
F2 and F3 12000 Bozeman - Plant Growth Center Inbred lines are developed without selection via single seed decent
F4 12000 Bozeman - Post Farm Individual plants selected for height, grain protein, kernel hardness and plant type. 
F5 2500 Bozeman - Post Farm Rows selected for agronomic appearance, hardness, grain protein, and select quality traits
F6 - Preliminary Yield Trial (PYT) 400-600 Bozeman - Post Farm Replicated nurseries selected for yield and quality
F7 - Early Yield Trial (EYT) 64 Bozeman, Havre, Sidney, Moccasin Replicated yield trials with full malt tests or other end-use quality tests
F8-F10 - Advanced Yield Trial 49 Bozeman, Havre, Sidney, Moccasin, Huntley, Creston, Conrad Replicated yield trials with full malt or other end-use quality tests
Winter nursery 100 CARC and EARC Full plots, winter survival and malt
Foundation Seed: Increase/Variety Purification 2-4 elite lines Bozeman - Post Farm Pure seed grown for distribution the following year