Growers urged to test barley purity

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeThe West Australian
Intergrain WA territory manager Dave Meharry toasts the introduction of the Flinders variety in 2015, with beer made from the variety.
Camera IconIntergrain WA territory manager Dave Meharry toasts the introduction of the Flinders variety in 2015, with beer made from the variety. Credit: Danella Bevis

InterGrain and CBH are scrambling to identify how grower deliveries of Flinders barley became contaminated, after tests last harvest showed some loads failed to meet the industry purity minimum of 95 per cent.

Growers currently seeding Flinders barley have been urged to check varietal purity, or risk not meeting malting barley contract requirements.

Flinders is an accredited malting barley variety bred by InterGrain, introduced in 2014 and touted for its yield advantage in medium-to-high rainfall areas.

It is able to be farmer-to-farmer traded and is grown primarily in the Kwinana and Albany port zones.

InterGrain chief executive Tress Walmsley said the “source and severity” of the seed purity issue was still unknown.

However, Ms Walmsley said InterGrain and CBH had made contact with all WA Flinders barley growers listed on their databases, and both would foot the bill of independent testing by Diversity Arrays Technology.

Ms Walmsley said growers had also been asked to supply seed trading information to “map the seed flow within the industry”.

“Earlier this year, CBH undertook some variety identity testing of its 2016 Flinders grain deliveries,” she said.

“Preliminary results of these tests indicated that some grower deliveries of Flinders were falling below the industry minimum purity of 95 per cent.”

In a statement, CBH said it had been made aware of “potential” purity issues during last harvest.

“Varietal purity is a key specification in malting barley contracts, with the minimum standard set at 95 per cent,” a spokesman said.

“During last harvest, CBH became aware of potential issues with the varietal purity of Flinders. CBH subsequently tested samples collected during harvest, which indicated variability of Flinders varietal purity.

“CBH and InterGrain are working ... to test current seed to understand if there is a potential issue with varietal purity.”

InterGrain has refused to take the blame, with Ms Walmsley saying that while the company was “not responsible for the issue”, it was “taking a proactive response to minimise any negative damage to the barley industry”.

“InterGrain has confirmed that the original seed it supplied to the WA seed sheds had a varietal purity of at least 98 per cent,” she said.

“Therefore, we believe that any potential contamination has occurred after the seed was handed over from InterGrain.”

Ms Walmsley said in testing to date, seed shed samples had been consistent with the varietal purity of greater than 98 per cent.

“At this stage, there is a red flag on the seed purity of Flinders based on the CBH data,” she said. “We don’t yet know the severity of the issue, but given growers were about to start barley seeding, we felt it important to share the partial information with industry and request them to check with variety purity.”

Flinders has been spruiked for its yield advantage compared to Bass and Baudin in medium-high rainfall areas and its resistance to powdery mildew, and good leaf rust resistance.

It also has high levels of starch-degrading enzyme levels, a key demand of the export market.

Growers can contact CBH or InterGrain for more.

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