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Barley varieties get malting nod

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Barley Australia has announced the malt accreditation of the La Trobe variety, paving the way for Eastern Wheatbelt growers to achieve malt-grade prices in coming seasons.

A sister line to the popular Hindmarsh variety, La Trobe has an end-point royalty of $4/tonne when compared with $1.65/tonne for Hindmarsh.

Flinders has also been accredited and will suit the higher rainfall, longer seasons of the Great Southern region.

Welcoming the accreditation announcement, Grains Industry Association Barley Council chairman Steve Tilbrook warned it may be some seasons before growers see significant premiums over the Hindmarsh variety, particularly given the difference in end-point royalties, plus the need to secure long-term markets.

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But he said it was not unusual for a new variety to take several years to establish itself in the marketplace and both La Trobe and Flinders would also need to prove a premium status with international customers.

Both varieties have been bred through a collaborative arrangement between Syngenta and Intergrain.

About 800ha of the La Trobe variety will be planted this season on the east Hyden property of Dave Cox.

Mr Cox bulked up the La Trobe variety last year on his Esperance property.

He plans to seed it this season as an alternative to Hindmarsh, which in years of average rainfall has yielded well in the Eastern Wheatbelt.

"We currently grow Hindmarsh at the east Hyden block, but since the La Trobe variety is now malt accredited, it will take the place of our Hindmarsh planting this year," he said. "It's a very similar agronomic package and we are anticipating yields similar to Hindmarsh, with the added advantage of malting-grade prices."

Department of Agriculture and Food WA senior research officer Blakely Paynter said Central and Eastern Wheatbelt growers who had early seeding opportunities in the past have had some success with Baudin and Gairdner as malt varieties.

"But the vast majority haven't had a malt option since Stirling and Hamelin stopped being segregated," he said.

"La Trobe offers growers the same agronomic performance as Hindmarsh, so if they like Hindmarsh and they have had success in delivering it as BFOD1, they will swap to La Trobe if there is a price incentive and local segregations."

Mr Paynter said the malt accreditation of La Trobe was also a big win for the domestic maltsters.

"With 30 per cent of the Kwinana port zone now sown to Hindmarsh, their options to accumulate malt-grade barley locally have been reduced in recent seasons," he said.

"The domestic malting market doesn't use Hindmarsh as it failed to meet the required standards of Barley Australia's malt accreditation process, so La Trobe now gives domestic maltsters a new accumulation option in the Kwinana port zone.

"The domestic malting market is an important component of the WA barley supply chain as they value-add one third of our malt-grade barley, with the other two-thirds of our malt-grade grain exported directly to international malting and brewing customers."

CBH barley trading manager Trevor Lucas said CBH had been undertaking market development on La Trobe for the past two years, but it was still too early to say whether or not the new variety would achieve premiums over Hindmarsh in the short term.

"But it's going to be difficult to envisage a big premium above Hindmarsh for this season, simply because our customers aren't aware of the variety and its qualities yet," he said.

According to Syngenta, La Trobe has high malt extract, high diastase and high fermentability.

It also possesses excellent physical grain characteristics, with good grain size, plumpness and excellent test weight. La Trobe has grain characteristics well suited to the Shochu market in Japan.

Flinders is a medium to late maturing semi-dwarf variety that is powdery mildew resistant, has good barley leaf rust resistance and is resistant to barley yellow dwarf virus.

Intergrain barley breeder David Tabah said Flinders offered a significant improvement in yield, rust and powdery mildew resistance over other varieties suitable for higher-rainfall areas.

Dr Tabah said Flinders had high levels of starch-degrading enzyme levels, a key demand of the export market.

"Most overseas breweries use starch in their brewing process, so higher enzyme levels are required to degrade the starch," he said.

"What we have with Flinders is a natural progression from Bass.

"In addition to that, Flinders is an SDW dwarf type, so this gives extra straw strength and better water-use efficiency.

"Flinders is very well suited to the Great Southern region, where there is relatively high rainfall and growers need a late-maturing variety. It has similar maturing qualities to both Bass and Baudin."

La Trobe and Flinders seed is now available from local resellers or Syngenta Seedgro members. La Trobe is available for farmer-to-farmer trading and Flinders will be available for farmer-to-farmer trading for the 2015-16 harvest.

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