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​P-50. History of barley production in the USA

Presenter: Paul Schwarz, NDSU Plant Sciences, Fargo, ND. Coauthor(s): Richard Horsley, NDSU Plant Sciences, Fargo, ND; Scott Heisel, American Malting Barley Association, Milwaukee, WI.

Barley was introduced to North America by European colonists beginning in the early 17th century. However the development of both barley cultivation and brewing in North America was quite different from what occurred in Europe, and some misconceptions persist even until today. A unique difference is that six-row barley remained the primary form in the U.S. until the latter half of the 20th century. Barley was first grown in New England in 1602, and early cultivation was largely driven by the desire of the colonists to produce beer. It is generally assumed that the first introductions were English two-row landraces, and as these were very poorly adapted to the climatic conditions of New England, production was quite limited. Cultivation only began to increase with westward movement into New York in the 18th century. After some experimentation, farmers found landraces of Scottish six-row barley to be most suitable. New York remained a major producer of barley until the late 19th century. In the western U.S., barley production in California developed with the Spanish Missions in the later 18th century. Production expanded with the gold rush of the mid-19th century, and California was a major producer of barley until the 1970s. Some malting barley was actually exported to the U.K. The coastal barley types of California descend from six-row types that were originally brought to Spain from North Africa. In terms of the foundation of modern production regions, there were about 100 years of barley migration from the eastern U.S. to the Midwest and West. Factors were European immigration and the growth of brewing in Midwestern cities such as Cincinnati, Chicago, and Milwaukee, as well as disease and pest problems in eastern production areas. The McKinley Tariff of 1890 also essentially eliminated barley imports from Canada into the eastern U.S. Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin were all at one time major producers of barley. Barley breeding began with the rediscovery of Mendel’s laws of inheritance around 1900. Early efforts were directed toward the improvement of Manchurian/Oderbrucker six-row types that were well-suited to the historic production regions and also to the light lager style of beer that was brewed with adjuncts. North Dakota became a major production center in early 20th century. Significant efforts toward the development of adapted two-row types did not occur until the latter half of the 20th century. Montana and Idaho became major U.S. producers only after 1950. This poster presents a timeline of barley production in the U.S. and also a description of some of the more historic barley cultivars.

Paul Schwarz is a professor of plant sciences at North Dakota State University, where he directs the Malting Barley Quality Laboratory and serves as the director of the Institute of Barley and Malt Sciences (IBMS). Over the past 30 years, Paul has published numerous articles on barley and malt. His current areas of interest are grain mycotoxins and food safety, as well as the history of malt barley quality testing. He holds a B.S. degree in agronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in cereal chemistry from North Dakota State University. Paul has previously worked at the Kurth Malting Corp., Milwaukee; Brauerei Egger AG, Worb, Switzerland; and the Coors Brewing Co., Golden, CO.