Focus on Certified Seed in niche markets

The second edition of Focus on Certified Seed was featured in the Irish Farmers Journal on 20th February 2016 with six pages exploring the use of certified seed in niche markets including the gluten-free and porridge oat markets and the growth in craft malt for distilling and brewing. All these markets require full product traceability and certified seed provides growers with that confidence. The articles included interviews with a number of farmers who produce crops for these niche markets and with Paul Bury, a plant breeder, who is developing new varieties to meet the evolving needs of the malting markets.

Mark Reynier, of Waterford Distillery, said, “The only ingredients in our whiskeys are barley, water and yeast. Great whiskey is about the flavours and aromas derived from the process. Whiskey is regarded as the most complex spirit of all because it is made from barley.” And the objective of this new distillery is to highlight the uniqueness of regions, growers and fields to help generate a diversity of flavours and aromas. With the help of Boortmalt, they get barley from 46 growers that represent 26 different soil types. Certified seed provides the variety purity and traceability needed.

In Kildare, the Doherty family have a long tradition of oat production, including other winter crops. Pat Doherty’s father, Paddy, would have been one of the first oat growers for Odlums. And 2016 is the first year he has grown gluten-free oats which is only planted after a break crop or ley. It is harvested by a dedicated Glanbia harvesting unit. Seed production, selection, certification and keeping other cereal grains out of the sample at all stages of production is critical.

Higher voluntary standards associated with producing C1 malting barley seed are a continuous challenge for Ivan Holden who farms in Co Carlow. Rotation in a field means that certified seed would be grown only every third or fourth year. As Ivan said this is critical because “we are growing seed for next year’s crop and we have a duty of care to all the farmers who purchase this seed to grow their crops for their livelihood.”

The Ring family has been growing barley on Cobh Island for generations and their main crop is barley for malting. They insist on attention to detail for certified seed production by ensuring their land is free of weeds such as wild oats, canary grass and sterile brome. Rogueing seed crops normally begins in early July and is done thoroughly twice. Emphasis is put on every part of the production process and the use of certified seed is the first critical step.

The reasons for the use of certified seed instead of home saved seed for beans were outlined, with certified seed giving the grower assurance that it has been grown, dried, stored, packed and handled to ensure that quality is maintained and impurities such as seed-borne diseases and the presence of harmful microscopic pests have been tested for.

Finally, Paul Bury, head malting barley breeder of Syngenta, Market Stainton, spoke about how yield improvements in malting barley breeding have come from improved environmental hardiness, with the focus in recent times to select for stress tolerance and yield stability traits.

The full Focus on Certified Seed feature and articles are available online through the Irish Farmers Journal website.