THE second year of commercial trials are underway in SA for a new variety of barley, Charger, developed in a three-way partnership with Carlsberg, Heineken and the University of Adelaide.
Now being distributed via Australian Grain Growers Co-operative, it follows almost nine years of work with the beer companies to test and develop a variety particularly suited for Australia –drawn from their patented Null-LOX barley, which was created in Europe in 2001 through cross-pollination to brew beer with a longer shelf life.
University of Adelaide barley program leader and Associate Prof Jason Eglinton says the Australian variety has more Gairdner heritage in it than anything else bred here.
"But really, it doesn't bear any specific resemblance to Gairdner and it's not really a product of any obvious varieties," he said.
The first commercial trials were harvested in 2012-13 from a single grower in the Mid North, but now there are up to 15 farmers in locations ranging from Serviceton, Vic, to Jamestown, growing a crop that is expected to reach about 4000 tonnes this harvest.
"This is just the first production from it and it is very good for a first variety," Prof Eglinton said.
"It's been pretty stable over the years that we've been testing it, but it does have a couple of weaknesses in terms of foliar diseases that we would like better resistance to, so that will be the priority for the replacement variety, if you like."
Growing Null-LOX in SA opens up strategic marketing opportunities at premium returns that the industry would not otherwise have access to. Commercial malt harvested last year under the program has already been processed and turned into malt barley by Joe Whites Malting at Port Adelaide, and processed into beer bottled at Coopers Brewery under licence for the Carlsberg brand.
AGG Co-op chief executive officer Steve Mellington said the motive behind the expansion from Europe to Australia was primarily centred on a push to expand Carlsberg's presence and footprint in the Asian region.
Using Australian-origin grain would be more effective than bringing in grain from Europe, and should Carlsberg choose to develop the SA program further, could result in between 200,000t and 300,000t being produced locally.
* Full article in Stock Journal's October 31 edition.