Malting barley continues to be in high demand from the Irish Drinks industry

February 20, 2024

The Teagasc Boortmalt Malting Barley Conference was held today, Tuesday, 20 February in Enniscorthy, County Wexford.  The conference attendees included farmers and industry professionals involved in producing over 300,000 tonnes of malting barley to supply the Irish drinks sector every year.  

The tillage sector has known for some time there are issues with barley seed supply in 2024, and the conference heard that even though seed is scarce, the malting sector has secured sufficient quantities to grow the required tonnage in 2024.  Eoin McDonald, an agronomist from Cooladine Farms Ltd, said; “The industry moved early to secure seed supplies and we are confident there is sufficient.  However we are conscious of the overall seed shortage and are encouraging growers to plant in excellent soil conditions to make the most of the available seed.”

Jonathan Roberts, a procurement manager in Boortmalt, told the conference the demand for malting barley is growing every year.  Jonathan Roberts said; “The growth in the drinks industry is continuing and our customers are delighted with the quality of Irish barley”.   However, he added there are sustainability requests coming through the supply chain, particularly around carbon footprinting.  “Consumer demands and corporate responsibility in the area of sustainability, especially around carbon footprinting is becoming a stronger driver for change in the industry”.  He added; “Boortmalt are aware that Irish grown malting barley has a low carbon footprint and there are practices which can help to lower the footprint in the future”.  Jonathan said Boortmalt will be communicating the next steps with farmers over the coming months.

Rebecca Bayley, the Teagasc Boortmalt joint advisor, presented data from demonstration trials over the past few years.  “The data from these on-farm trials mirror what we would expect from replicated trials.  In the plant growth regulators trial, it clearly shows there is no benefit from the application in crops with normal plant counts”.

Malting barley is grown widely across the Slaney river catchment and Eddie Burgess from the Agricultural Catchments Programme in Teagasc, told the conference there was a substantial improvement in water quality in the Slaney catchment in the past couple of years.  Eddie Burgess did point out that due to the light/porous soil type in the catchment, nitrate leaching continues to be high and all farmers have a part to play in reducing nitrate leaching. 

Dr Richie Hackett, a crops researcher in Oak Park, Teagasc, outlined where liquid nitrogen, or Urea Ammonium Nitrate (UAN) fits into the production of malting barley crops.  Richie Hackett said that the liquid nitrogen will work equally as well as other nitrogen sources, but growers need to be careful using the product in dry conditions as it is more susceptible to volatilisation than CAN.

Teagasc and Boortmalt run a joint industry programme to promote the sustainable production of malting barley.