Secrets to Superb Malting Barleys Explored by ARS
Researchers By Marcia Wood February 3, 2010
Many favorite breakfast cereals, candies, beers, and other foods and
beverages owe much of their smooth, delicious flavor to malt. Malting
barleysthe source of that maltare the focus of studies at the
Service (ARS) malting barley laboratory in Madison, Wis., part of the
Crops Research Unit.
Schmitt and plant physiologist
Budde are discovering more about what goes on inside barley grains as they
germinate, or sprout, in the malt house. Sprouting is one of many steps that go
into making malt.
Findings from the scientists' basic and applied research help plant
breeders develop even better malting barleys for tomorrow. Of particular
interest to Schmitt are the specialized enzymes that the grain creates while it
is sprouting. These enzymes, for example, convert the grain's stored proteins
into their component amino acids, and convert the stored carbohydrates into
what are known as "simple sugars."
Schmitt is also interested in the balance of this breaking down of
proteins and carbs. That balance can affect the malt's flavor and other
Some of the team's current research into barley enzymes follows up on
studies they reported several years ago. In one investigation, Schmitt found
that enzymes called serine-class proteases, which break down proteins in the
sprouting grain, can also break down beta-amylase, an important enzyme for
converting carbs to simple sugars.
The study, a scientific first, was reported in a 2008 issue of the
of Cereal Science. The finding might help explain one of the patterns
found in an earlier study, published in a 2007 issue of the journal
Chemistry. In that analysis of more than 2,000 North American malting
barleys, Schmitt and Budde found that high levels of a desirable,
beta-amylase-associated attribute in the barleys correlated to low levels of
the serine-class proteases.
about this research in the February 2010 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's principal intramural scientific research