12th September 2022

High yielding and consistent varieties are key to meeting the ever increasing demands of the scottish distilling industry

Speaking at a recent press briefing hosted by Limagrain UK on growing for the distilling market, Roger Baird of grain merchants, W.N Lindsay highlighted the current discrepancy between supply and demand for the distilling industry.

“This year there will be a million tonnes of wheat required for the distilling market; we are able to supply 600,000 tonnes of this from Scottish growers which means that we will need to look at importing the remaining 500,000 tonnes requirement.”

“Whilst some of this requirement can be shipped up from England, with the Vivergo plant now in action many growers south of the border will be looking to supply this market, so we could be faced with a serious shortfall.”

“The story is similar for barley; we have a requirement for 900,000 tonnes but insufficient supplies, which means that we are looking at imports from Europe.”

There is an opportunity however to meet some of this demand however by choosing to grow varieties that are consistent and higher yielding across seasons, was the message from breeders Limagrain.

“Spring barley varieties such as Odyssey and Overture have set new threshold levels for yield,” says Limagrain barley breeder, Mark Glew. 

“With the higher yields offered by these varieties – Odyssey yields 7% over the benchmark standard of Concerto and Overture 4% – it gives growers a real opportunity to increase supply volumes without necessarily increasing the hectarages they grow.”

“And we have seen these yields stand up to the challenges of the past two very different and challenging seasons, so we know that the varieties deliver consistently.”

“This success of performance is reflected by the considerable interest in these varieties across Europe, as growers set their sights on supplying the Scottish distilling market. Both Odyssey and Overture are grown across more than ten countries – from France to Kazakstan – in fact Odyssey is currently the second largest spring barley variety in Denmark.”

“With regards to their certification for brewing and distilling, we are confident that full approval will be reached. Currently, both varieties have completed CBMO testing. Odyssey has full approval for distilling and is in provisional 2 for brewing, Overture has provisional 2 for brewing and distilling.”

“It is important to recognise that all of the new varieties that are coming through on the recommended list have been rejected for distilling, so Odyssey and Overture really are the best options for growers who want to make the most of the opportunity to supply as much barley as possible to the distillers.”

Soft wheats are well suited for grain distilling, however according to Dr Steve Hoad of the SRUC, the best varieties for this market are those with a soft endosperm texture, high starch content and low nitrogen. “Distillers are looking for varieties with a medium rating for alcohol yield per tonne and should have low residue viscosity during processing.”

“Balanced against this growers want varieties that can deliver these quality distilling values but are also agronomically strong with stiff straw, early maturity, a low sprouting risk and robust disease resistance – in fact many varieties that have a ‘good’ rating for distilling are not grown because of agronomic weaknesses – such as late maturity or weak straw.”

Ron Granger of Limagrain is confident that varieties such as Horatio have shown a consistency of performance in terms of both yield and quality that will give growers confidence to grow for this market.

“Horatio was added to the 2012/13 HGCA Recommended List as the joint highest yielding soft milling wheat in treated trials. With Alchemy in its parentage, Horatio has similar quality grain characteristics.” 

“The variety performed well in the difficult conditions of last year, and we are confident that it will do so again at this harvest demonstrating our breeding focus on producing consistent varieties that farmers like to grow,” he says. 

“This quality high yielding performance has been recorded across several years, regions and rotations based on is sound agronomic make up – stiff straw, good Septoria resistance, and its suitability for a range of drilling dates from early through to late sowing.” 

“With a medium rating for distilling, Horatio meets the requirements of distillers and growers, so it’s a really good choice to consider for this autumn.”

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