Volume 12, Number 6 November 5, 2004

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Harvey's top barley wins recognition

Bryan Harvey

A small public investment in breeding a unique variety of barley at the U of S in 1972 led to enormous benefits for western Canadian agriculture, making it worthy of special recognition at an Oct. 19 meeting of the Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute.

Harrington barley, a two-row malting variety bred at the Crop Development Centre (CDC) by Bryan Harvey, was licensed in 1981, with the first certified seed sold in 1983. Since then, some 57 million acres of Harrington have been grown in western Canada with the single-year peak coming in 1991 with 4.7 million acres. Total Harrington production of 2.8 billion bushels over the years has an estimated value of $12.3 billion. Its success is a “prime example of how public money for plant breeding provides benefits for agriculture as well as the entire economy,” said Rick Holm, CDC director.

SeCan, a non-profit seed distribution organization, presented Harvey and the CDC with a painting to mark the contribution of Harrington – which, like other malting barley varieties, is used in the production of beer.

By 1986, Harrington was the most widely grown malting barley in western Canada, a position it held until 2002. According to the breeder, it is “unprecedented” for a single variety to dominate for so long in acreage and as “a standard for malting barley around the world”. Harvey, who has spent some 40 years on a breeding program that has cost about $5 million over that time, has produced a number of other successful varieties.

In acknowledging Harrington’s success, Harvey said Canada must match the investment made in barley breeding by other countries in order to continue to produce varieties that perform as well as or better than those from other suppliers.

Since 1977, the CDC has registered 221 different varieties of flax, cereals, pulses and specialty crops.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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