Better Malting Barley
The cultivation of malting barley has a long tradition in Germany, as does brewing.
In 2021, Germany was among the top 5 largest beer producers worldwide with a volume of 89 million hectolitres. In terms of sales, malting barley has a price premium of around €50-100/t compared to feed barley. Nevertheless, the cultivation of spring barley in Germany is declining. From 2006 to 2021, the area under cultivation decreased by 240 thousand hectares, which leads to increased imports with longer transport routes for breweries.
But if there is demand and a price advantage, why is cultivation declining?
Malting barley must have a protein content of 9.5% to 11.5% to be used for malting and therefore brewing. Meeting this spectrum requires experience in barley cultivation and knowledge of the areas used. In order not to exceed the desired protein content, it is often only possible to fertilise once. This fertilisation is usually applied directly when sowing. After that, the development is heavily dependent on environmental influences and the one chance to have applied the right amount of fertilizer. This risk results in over 25% of the total crop failing to meet protein content specifications. The risk of cultivation therefore seems to outweigh the economic benefit. This leads to higher costs for breweries: storage and mixing of different quality grades of barley as well as imports with longer transport routes.
"Better Malting Barley" wants to solve this problem.
By reducing the risk of insufficient quality (protein content <9.5% or >11.5%) for producers, malting barley should become more attractive for cultivation. At the same time, emissions during cultivation are to be reduced to lower the CO2e footprint (CO2 equivalents) of the raw material for breweries. As a result, the sales of the barley should be both safer and more attractive in price thanks to this additional value.
The "Better Malting Barley" solution uses a combination of products from BASF and is based on a cooperation with the Digital Farming association, whose members John Deere, Rauch Düngerstreuer and Pessl as well as ZG Raiffeisen, Dominik Bellaire and Michael von Gemmingen were involved in 2021. Satellite data and plant models from the xarvio® FIELD MANAGER generate individual fertilizer maps that offer zone-specific fertilization adapted to the conditions of the area. In addition, nitrogen use efficiency is improved by reducing nitrogen losses through nitrification inhibitors for organic and mineral fertilizers. This leads to an improved CO2e footprint of the cultivated barley since the adapted fertilization and the nitrification inhibitors can reduce environmentally harmful processes such as greenhouse gases or N leaching. The amount of nitrogen available to the barley is applied more precisely and its availability is improved. This also improves the ability of the protein content to meet the malting barley specification, since the nitrogen uptake influences the protein content of the barley. Other BASF products such as Systiva® and Revystar® can also ensure optimal development. The xarvio® FIELD MANAGER and BASF products not only reduce the risk of cultivating barley that cannot be used for brewing, but the harvested brewing barley is also characterised by a reduced CO2e footprint.
"Better Malting Barley" enables the production of a climate-friendly beer, supports farmers in their important task and is part of the change for sustainable digital agriculture. In 2021 we were able to confirm our assumptions - an improved CO2e footprint with the desired quality and level of income. The aim now is to repeat this on larger areas in 2022 and to further optimise the production system together with farmers in practice.