THE man responsible for breeding some of SA's most popular barley varieties has retired after almost 40 years in the industry.
Reg Lance not only bred varieties such as Sloop, Keel, Maritime and Gairdner - he also trained SA's pre-eminent barley breeder Jason Eglinton.
Dr Lance attributes the rise in Australia's annual barley production - now at about 8 million tonnes - to breeding improvements and significant advances in agronomy systems.
SA contributes about a quarter of the nation's barley, but the area sown in the state fluctuates depending on prices and rotations.
In 2010 SA barley production hit a peak of 2.83mt, but last year SA production fell to 1.89mt because of the high prices being paid for barley's main competitor, wheat.
Strong variety releases have helped keep the level of barley production up in SA through the years.
The first of Dr Lance's releases through WA company Intergrain was Bass in 2012, following its malt accreditation.
Released as a Baudin replacement, Bass has similar adaptation and malting characteristics and performs well for growers in the medium to high rainfall zones.
"Bass was a paradigm shift, as semi-dwarf export malting varieties typically had smaller grain sizes, but Bass has excellent grain plumpness, which helped meet malt specifications," Dr Lance said.
Another variety he bred was Flinders, which should be released in 2015 if accreditation is received. It offers a yield advantage over Bass and Baudin in medium-high rainfall areas, and is resistant to powdery mildew and has good leaf rust resistance.
One of the most popular varieties grown in SA in recent years, and bred by Dr Lance was Sloop, which was widely considered a quantum leap forward in terms of malting quality, offering greatly improved extract and a 25 per cent improvement in diastatic power over industry benchmarks at the time.
Dr Lance grew up in WA but in 1984 he started a post-doctorate on malting quality at the University of Adelaide under barley breeder David Sparrow. He quickly moved into barley breeding, which was always his goal.
While he was based in SA Dr Lance was involved in breeding Dhow, Keel, and Maritime.
In December 1995, he returned to his home state to work at the Department of Agriculture and Food WA with barley breeder Peter Portman, best known for breeding Stirling, released in 1982.
During the mid-1990s the department's barley breeding program focused on a Stirling replacement to offer an improved quality variety for the increasingly demanding export market.
In 1997 Dr Lance - along with Mr Portman - released Gairdner, which filled a national variety gap and was popular in SA, giving growers a mid-long season malting option.
Bred from a sister line to the variety Franklin and Onslow, a long season semi-dwarf, Gairdner was so successful it remains popular in some areas.
In 2002 Baudin was released, which Dr Lance considers to be one of his major breeding achievements.
Originally released as a Gairdner replacement for medium-higher rainfall areas, Baudin was a leap forward in terms of quality and is still considered the international benchmark.
In 2006, department researcher Chengdao Li and Dr Lance jointly released Vlamingh, which yielded more than Gairdner and was better adapted to medium-low rainfall areas than Baudin.
Vlamingh, which received malt accreditation in early 2007, appealed to growers because of its yield and agronomic benefits and its excellent grain size.