“As we know, recommendation onto the AHDB Recommended List is only the first step for a new malting barley variety; it then has to go through Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) testing which can take several years, after which the brewers and distillers will then make the decision to accept the variety onto its lists,” says Les Daubney, arable marketing director, for breeders of LG Opera, Limagrain UK.
“However we believe that LG Opera will buck this trend, and is a very exciting option for growers who are looking for a high yielding malting barley variety, wishing to exploit the exciting malt distilling premiums currently available.”
“We have got strong support from the IBD to test grain from the 2017 harvest, with several end-users committed to trials.”
LG Opera is the latest variety from the Limagrain barley breeding programme which introduced the non-GN concept to the marketplace with the launch of Concerto, back in 2009. Eight years later, Concerto is still regarded as the ‘benchmark variety’ for the malting and distilling industry producing high yields of malting quality grain, suitable for the majority of outlets in the UK.
Whilst high yield potential is key to the success of any new variety, the emphasis of our breeding programme reflects the increasing importance of grain quality and we are beginning to analyse factors that bring ‘consistency’ – that is to produce varieties in the field that will perform across seasons and positions, says senior barley breeder for Limagrain, Mark Glew.
“LG Opera reflects the outcome of this approach, offering a step up in yield and agronomics but with quality attributes similar to those offered by Concerto – and these have been tested across regions and seasons.”
The variety yields 104% over controls on the RL, which is close to those of Laureate and Planet for the UK. It is slightly higher yielding, 105% in the north, which is as high as Laureate and Planet.
“Hot water extract is one of the most important measurements in judging malting quality, and LG Opera has the highest hot water extract at 316.2 on the RL. This is just above that offered by Concerto, so we have every reason to believe that LG Opera will meet the quality requirements of the industry for brewing and malt distilling,” he says.
“Grain nitrogen content is also important in barley’s suitability for distilling as the lower the grain nitrogen content, the better the spirit yield will be. The distiller is looking to maximise his production and he will do this with lower grain nitrogen barleys as opposed to higher ones.”
“LG Opera has a nitrogen content of 1.35% which is the lowest on the list – this is much lower than Laureate for example that has a nitrogen content of 1.41%.”
Wet harvests can often result in spring malting varieties skinning. This is when the outer layer of the barley grain, or husk, is lost causing big variations in water uptake for maltsters and hence big problems in processing.
However testing done on 2015 harvest samples from two untreated recommended list and national list trials with high skinning, has shown that LG Opera appears to be one of, if not, the best variety for resistance to skinning.
LG Opera on farm
“We know that farmers like to grow big, bold samples, and like wheat varieties, a good specific weight barley variety would appear to be more robust especially in time of stress or erratic weather patterns,” says Ron Granger, arable technical manager for Limagrain UK.
Specific weights for spring barley are lower in newer varieties compared to older varieties. This has come about as breeders drive to produce higher yielding varieties but at the cost of grain quality – not dissimilar to the scenario seen with winter wheats a couple of years ago, he says.
“However this is not seen with LG Opera which holds onto a good level of specific weight similar to that of Laureate.”
Looking at LG Opera’s on-farm characteristics, it’s a really farmer friendly variety, continues Mr Granger. “It is early maturing similar to RGT Planet and earlier than Laureate, with a good resistance to lodging and brackling, and also offers an all-round good disease resistance package.”
|LG Opera||RGT Planet||Laureate||Propino||Concerto|
|Resistance to lodging (no PGR) (1-9)||6||7||7||7||6|
|Straw height (cm)||72||75||73||77||79|
|Ripening (+/- Concerto, -ve = earlier)||-1||-1||0||-1||0|
|Resistance to brackling (1-9)||8||8||8||8||8|
|Specific weight (kg/hl)||66.2||67.6||66.1||68||68.8|
|Nitrogen content (%)||1.35||1.39||1.41||1.48||1.45|
|Hot water Extract||316.2||314.7||315.5||313.2||316|