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Guest blog post: International hub to develop barley’s full potential as global crop

On 26/04/17

Colin West, Chair of the International Barley Hub writes:

Assured supplies of safe, high quality, and affordable barley are the outcome of decades of consistent research and development: the future depends on continued and upgraded research efforts to give farmers profitable varieties appropriate to different markets, by combatting issues arising from the relatively narrow gene pool of current varieties and by radically shortening development times for new varieties.

The James Hutton Institute - the world-leading research centre based in Scotland - is working to endow the new International Barley Hub with its expertise by collaborating with industry and other academic bodies to establish a unique platform for the translation of barley research into commercial benefits for the entire brewing, distilling and food value chain, with very important implications for food security worldwide.

The initiative aims to develop a commercially-focused innovation centre, which would also serve as a training and development ground for barley research skills at an international level. It builds on the critical mass available at the James Hutton Institute and the co-located barley group from the University of Dundee, which together are already considered a world-leading barley research cluster, and the concentration of growers, maltsters, distillers and processors in the vicinity. The James Hutton Institute has a long history of collaborating with the worldwide barley community.

Barley remains a staple food crop in many parts of the world, and efforts are being made to capitalise on its hardiness and adaptability, especially in developing countries. Likewise, its nutritional benefits are of increasing interest to food and ingredient producers in developed countries.

For brewing, the benefits of research can be seen in the current availability of high quality malting barleys, but there continues to be a need to increase yields, improve disease resistance, work on quality issues, improve processability, adapt to global climate trends – amongst other things! These improvements are important in the UK, but also across the globe in other malting barley regions.

The Barley Hub is one of over 50 projects submitted for UK government funding by Tayside Cities Deal: a decision is anticipated later this year. In the interim, work has commenced to build the governance structure of the Hub and to start activities which are not dependent on the new building.

For more information about the International Barley Hub project, please visit the Barley Hub website, or contact Colin West directly on


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