story to find out more.
Beer is brewed from malted
barley. ARS scientists are searching for enzymes that will make barley
withstand the high heat of the malting process. Click the image for more
information about it.
New Enzymes Boost Alcohol Production
By Erin Peabody
September 7, 2006
What do ethanol, baked goods and beer have in common? These products,
and the industries that make them, are among the latest beneficiaries of
studies conducted by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
ARS plant physiologist
Henson and colleagues in the agency's
Crops Research Unit at Madison, Wis., have designed three heat-loving
barley enzymes that perform exceptionally well at temperatures hovering above
70 degrees Celsius, or about 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thanks to their distinctive heat tolerance, these barley enzymes can
yield up to 30 percent more sugar than enzymes found in conventional barley
lines. More sugar means more fermentable product for brewing beerand more
sugar for converting into ethanol-based fuels.
A premium barley line is not only great news for industry, it's also a
boon to the nation's barley growers, who earn up to a dollar more per bushel
for top-of-the-line barley varieties suited for ethanol and beer production.
Today's barley enzymes become severely sluggish when they're thrust
into superheated temperatures. But while the heat dulls the enzymes' catalyzing
abilities, it is a necessary evil. It's vital for loosening up the barley's
starches and readying them for conversion into sugar.
For example, at high temperatures, alpha-glucosidaseone of the
most important barley enzymes for turning starches into fermentable sugars
during beer-makinghas less than 5 percent of the activity it normally
Hopefully, that's about to change. With Henson's discovery, barley
plants containing the new-and-improved enzymes may only be a couple of years
The enzymes weren't developed for breeding into current barley plants.
Instead, the researchers are using them as a search tool to scan vast
collections of barley plants for accessions already possessing the desirable
With so much genetic diversity to sift through and mine, Henson says
it's probable that the impressive heat-tolerant enzymes are out there. They
just need to be discovered.
in the September 2006 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.