Chuck Denney (UT Institute of Agriculture)
Just dropping in on this field, you’d think this was the mid-west - amber waves and all. But this is a crop growing down south in Tennessee, right near the land of cotton. Barley is the grain, and this is an experimental field covered in it at UT’s AgResearch Center in Jackson.
Dr. Chris Main (UT AgResearch)
“It does provide the Tennessee grower an alternative winter crop that can be quite profitable.”
Dr. Chris Main and UT AgResearch is working with In-Bev - Anheuser Busch to produce barley for Budweiser beer. But what’s unique here is the time table. Midwestern barley is planted in spring and harvested in fall. Down south, you flip the calendar. Turn back to Fall 2008, and that’ when this Tennessee barley crop was planted - a total of eight varieties. Now in late spring, it’s ready to be cut.
Dr. Chris Main
“What that does is evens out the supply of barley for the brewery throughout the entire year, and diversifies their production region - so if they have problems up in the mid-west, they can shift and get some production in the south.'
Barley is actually grown in 27 US states, and our country produces about 300 million bushels a year. Most of our barley goes to produce alcoholic beverages or to feed farm animals.
In the future, look for barley to be used more often in ethanol production.
All of Tennessee’s wheat is grown over the winter months, and that would also be the case if we started producing more barley. Not only does this schedule give Anheuser Busch production flexibility, but Tennessee farmers might receive additional income at a different time of year. Main believes this crop has potential in the volunteer state.
Dr. Chris Main
“We’ve had excellent yields. This barley will yield just as well as wheat. What’s really attractive for the Tennessee producer is it matures anywhere from two to three weeks earlier than the wheat we plant.”
Soon the wispy strands of this pretty plant will be harvested to become malt. While we don’t really think of Tennessee as a big grain state, barley seems to do well here, and the timing couldn’t be better.
NOTE: This is the second year UT’s Institute of Agriculture has worked with Budweiser in this project. Researchers will now pass along information from this experimental crop to farmers at future meetings.