Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fighting Fungus in the Barley

The cool Summer weather has been perfect for barley growth. In GriggsDakota we raise barley on contract for Anheuser-Busch. This link will take you down the barley trail. In order for our barley to meet the malting standards set forth in our contract, we must pay close attention to the crop as it matures.
The barley has had plenty of moisture. The damp cloudy days are perfect for development of Fusarium Head Blight, commonly referred to as DON (deoxynivalenvol) or vom (vomitoxin) in the barley heads. Our barley can be rejected at the elevator for unacceptable levels of fungus. If left to develop in barley or wheat, it will affect yield and quality. 
  Robbie has the sprayer on the job to apply fungicide to our barley crop. The treatment helps prevent vomitoxin from damaging our crop. Applying fungicide is costly and the effectiveness has been debated. We believe an ounce of prevention is worth it.
Spores that carry this fungus feed on decaying plant life. They can be carried by wind or splashed around by rain to reach the heads of wheat or barley. Once in the head, the fungus feeds on the developing kernels. Reduced tillage practices have increased the occurrence of head blight, but because wind carries the spores, all barley and wheat in our area are susceptible to fungal disease.
 The presence of vomitoxin in beer is never going to make a person sick. Someone would have to drink hundreds of pints in a short time to be adversely affected by the tiny amount that might be present in a finished beer. 
The problem for brew masters is the amount of foam as the beer is opened.  The industry refers to it as gushing, which is excessive foaming of the beer from its container as the can or bottle pressure is released during opening. 
Some foaming is fine and even desirable, but too much and the product is a mess. That would be gushing.
 Anheuser- Busch DON standards help to assure the fine line of a foam head on the beer, without gushing upon opening. 
Tricky business to be sure when you are talking thousands of acres producing millions of bushels of barley for a company with the scope of Anheuser-Busch.
 Acre by acre, day by day, we do our best to keep the barley clean and disease free as it grows in the fields of GriggsDakota.

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