Integrating Malting Barley Into Irrigated Crop Rotations
The eastern Montana/western North Dakota (MonDak) area has rapidly become a major six-rowed malting barley production area producing up to 50% of the six-rowed malt barley produced in the United States. The USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory has a long history of actively solving problems facing the small grains industry in this area. With the arrival of several researchers in the past four years, several new interdisciplinary research projects have been launched that have included industry, growers and regional universities. These projects include weed control, biological fungicide seed treatment (eg., net blotch, crown rot), fertility and irrigation water management. This USDA-ARS facility is leading the way in defining agricultural practices for small grains in the western states of Montana, North Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming.
Irrigated six-row malt barley research focuses on improving acceptance rates (protein, color and plumps) of six-rowed varieties through integrated approaches to irrigation and fertilizer rates under center pivot and surface irrigation methods. Fertility management research is examining the effect of various nitrogen fertilizer rates and timings on protein and other quality parameters. Water management research is directed toward the efficient use of irrigation water and energy to optimize grain production while protecting the environment and water quality. Other research focuses on improving production and weed control while controlling agrochemical and tillage costs through an integrated use of cultural practices and rotations.
Nutrient management is important in satisfying yield and end-use quality requirements for irrigated spring barley. Inadequate nutrient levels lower yields. Excess nitrogen can also decrease yields and quality and cause significant economic loss if contract specifications are not met. Excessive plant tissue nitrogen concentrations tend to promote vegetative growth, which increases the potential for foliar diseases and promotes lodging by decreasing straw strength. High soil nitrogen also increases the potential for environmental degradation from nitrate leaching.