MORE than $2.9 million will be spent on improving malting barley varieties through a joint Australian Research Council Linkage Project between the University of Adelaide, the University of Western Australia, Viterra and Carlsberg.
ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls director Geoff Fincher says the collaborative venture will help to address the growing energy and water costs that maltsters and brewers face when converting barley to beer.
The program started on Monday.
"One of the central objectives of this program is to produce barley varieties with a low-input requirement in the malthouse and brewery," he said.
"We want to produce varieties that consume less water and less energy to address these growing costs.
"If you can cut the industry's powerbill by x per cent, that equals x more profit and x less carbon footprint. That really is an important part of the project."
Prof Fincher said project funding included cash and in-kind contributions from all parties.
He said an important element of the project was to get academic institutions and research groups interacting with industry.
"It's all about the translation of fundamental science into the real world of industry and commerce," he said.
"Our partners wish to define genetic factors that greatly enhance malting and brewing performance with reduced water and energy inputs, and to generate molecular markers for tracking these factors through barley breeding programs.
"Our approach will be to use new molecular genetics, functional genomics, biochemical and imaging technologies to compare germination in selected high-performance lines with parental and other lines.
"At the same time, and to underpin future malting and brewing requirements, several major unanswered questions related to germination physiology will be addressed, including sequential gene expression and biochemical events in the aleurone layer, the scutellar epithelium and in specific regions of the embryo."
Prof Fincher said an international research team would provide new scientific information on barley grain germination.
"This detailed basic knowledge will be immediately applied in breeding programs that are aimed at improving malting and brewing quality in a commercial context," he said.
"At the same time, the industry's carbon footprint will be significantly reduced."
*Full report in Stock Journal, July 4 issue, 2013.