Commissioner Steve Troxler: Agronomic Services Division Conducting Research on Barley

Farmers may soon have another market for their barley. Agronomic Services Division researching optimal nitrogen rates for malting quality barley. If successful, farmers could sell malting barley to brewers looking for local ingredients, drawing four to five times more per bushel for the barley.

  • Staff with our Agronomic Services Division are working in collaboration with N.C. State University on a research project that could lead to the availability of more local malting barley for North Carolina brewers.
  • Agronomists are trying to determine optimal nitrogen rates, because nitrogen impacts the plumpness of the grain and protein content, both important measures of quality.
  • The payoff could be big for farmers. Barley costs around $2 a bushel for animal feed compared to $8-$12 a bushel for malting barley.
  • The research is being paid for through a $104,695 grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. This is the second year of the four-year study and the potential is great.
  • North Carolina ranks eighth in the country in the number of craft brewers and number one in the Southeast, because of significant recent growth. Many local brewers are eager to use locally grown products in their brews, because of consumer demand.
  • About 96 percent of malted barley is from out of state. Of the 1.2 million barrels of beer produced in the state, only 40,000 are made with North Carolina grown barley.
  • So there is tremendous potential for farmers and brewers alike.
  • The research is being conducted on seven of the state’s research stations, which factors in different soil types and climate conditions. Participating stations are Sandhills, Piedmont, Lower Coastal, Upper Coastal, Oxford, Central Crops and Mountain Horticultural Crops.
  • Some farmers have already been experimenting with nitrogen applications on their own, but if this project is successful, that would eliminate the guesswork for farmers and help ensure a dependable results for the barley they grow.
  • This could be a game changer for barley producers.