Barley variety honours historic brewery

A new barley variety named after the site of the original Coopers brewery is being bulked up this season with a view to becoming the South Australian brewers’ malt of choice.

Bred by the University of Adelaide at its Waite Institute, WI4896 has been named Leabrook having passed stage 1 malt accreditation in March. It will become an accredited malting variety in March 2020 if it passes Stage 2 this year.

The variety is being bulked up this season through Seednet Partners growers at eight sites: three in South Australia, two in Queensland, two in New South Wales and one in Western Australia. About 5 tonnes of seed has gone out and seeding has begun in some areas. More than 400 hectares will be planted and about 1000 tonnes of seed likely to be kept for the commercial launch in 2020.

Seednet Partners General Manager Simon Crane said Leabrook would be grown alongside other barley varieties such as Compass, Spartacus and La Trobe for comparison purposes.

He said it was a tall and vigorous plant type with a 2-5 per cent yield advantage on other Seednet Partners malting varieties, which include Commander, Compass and Scope. Leabrook has also shown to have a slightly higher malt extract than other varieties, Crane said.

“Yield is the main reason but we’re hoping that on the malt side it’s got something to offer as well so end users are asking about it as well as growers who are keen to grow it,” he said.

“Planet is the hardest barley to beat these days in the long season regions so it won’t beat that for yield but more in the low-to-medium rainfall regions and in the tougher seasons this variety has proven to have a yield advantage.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been bred specifically for craft brewing but there’s definitely interest. It’s also in the national variety trial system so there is a lot of trial results but this year will be the first larger scale evaluation and demonstration of the variety.”

Based in Adelaide, South Australia, Coopers is Australia’s largest independently owned brewery, selling about 80 million litres a year.

Its famous ales were brewed at Leabrook in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs from 1881 until the brewery relocated to its current site at Regency Park in 2001.

Coopers malted Leabrook barley last year and made a test batch of beer as part of the accreditation process. It will likely malt two more batches at its new 54,000-tonne malting facility alongside its brewery in the coming months.

Leabrook barley is closely related to Compass, which was also bred by the University of Adelaide and is currently used by Coopers as its standard malt across its range.

Coopers’ maltings manager Dr Doug Stewart said if all went well with testing and Stage 2 accreditation, it was likely that Leabrook would eventually replace Compass as the barley of choice at the brewery in a staged transition as the variety adopted by more growers.

He said Leabrook performed “perfectly” in the first malt trial at Coopers last year.

“There were no problems at all so we’re very enthusiastic that it will be a good replacement for Compass,” Stewart said.

“The variety Compass is very much in line with the domestic brewing industry so I think the new variety will find its way into a number of different domestic beers including some craft beers.

“It will certainly keep that Compass type of barley around for longer, which is a style of barley and malt that we enjoy.”

The University of Adelaide’s barley breeding program at the Waite Institute ended in June 2017 meaning that WI4896 could be the last commercial barley variety officially named by the university.

The Waite is the largest agricultural research and teaching hub in the Southern Hemisphere and is also home to CSIRO, Plant & Food Research Australia and The Australian Wine Research Institute.

The University of Adelaide has traditionally used maritime terms such as clipper, schooner, keel and fathom when naming its barley, which Stewart said made the break from tradition to use the Leabrook name all the more special.

“Coopers has been involved with the breeding program at the University of Adelaide for many years and we have ongoing research projects with them as well so it’s a lovely touch that they’ve agreed to name it after our original brewery site,” he said.

SA attracts NZ food research company

New Zealand-based science and innovation company Plant & Food Research is establishing a base at the largest agricultural research and teaching hub in the Southern Hemisphere.

The move into the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus in South Australia will give the company access to world-class facilities and drive research collaborations aimed at enhancing production, sustainability and value-adding in the horticulture, food and agriculture industries.

Plant & Food Research Australia is a wholly owned subsidiary of the New Zealand science organisation Plant & Food Research, a NZ Government-owned Crown Research Institute.

The company has previously worked with the University of Adelaide on agricultural product development, almond orchard systems and harvest technologies.

It is also a partner in the new University of Adelaide-led Research Consortium – Agricultural Product Development, increasing the value of agricultural waste and turning it into new products; and has formal agreement in place to work with the University’s Adelaide Glycomics on complex carbohydrates and their potential in a range of sectors.

Established in Adelaide’s southern suburbs in 1924, The Waite is the largest concentration of agricultural research and teaching expertise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Plant & Food Research Australia will join 15 complementary organisations already at The Waite, including CSIRO, The Australian Wine Research Institute, Australian Grain Technologies and the South Australia Research and Development Institute (SARDI).

Like New Zealand, the South Australia relies heavily on agriculture, seafood and wine exports to drive its economy.

University of Adelaide’s Vice- Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen said the campus had been at the heart of development of agriculture and food industries in South Australia for almost a century.

“Now with more than 250 academic staff at the university directly involved in agrifood and wine education and research we continue to lead research and innovation in these sectors,” Rathjen said.

Plant & Food Research group general manager, marketing and innovation Dr Gavin Ross said establishing a base at the campus would provide access to complementary facilities and skills within the university and other partner organisations, along with a well-trained pool of students at the undergraduate and postgraduate level.

“Science is a complicated business, requiring large teams with a vast array of skills and infrastructure, and generating large data sets that require new and sophisticated procedures for analysis,” Ross said.

“Waite has a world-wide reputation for excellence and we look forward to building on past collaborations in working closely with industry, our clients and funding bodies.”

Plant & Food Research also has a collaboration with the University of Adelaide’s almond breeding program, and has major projects in other nut crops and in pollination across a range of crops.

The company has also bred several new plant varieties commercialised and grown in Australia, including Jazz, Envy and Rockit brand apples, and potatoes licensed to South Australian potato grower Mitolo.

South Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said there was growing global demand for the safe, healthy food for which South Australia was well known.

“The increased research capabilities (of Plant & Food Research Australia) will further the state’s reputation as a world leader in agricultural and food research, and help take advantage of the tremendous potential for growth in the horticulture and agri-food sectors,”  Whetstone said.