ARS invests in barley, oat research
research lab to the improvement of cereal crops such as barley and
USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) yesterday announced that the new $11m facility will essentially double the size of the original laboratory, built in 1948. "This laboratory has been the country's only public research facility for evaluating malting barley cultivars based on their quality and usefulness," said ARS associate administrator Antoinette Betschart. "For nearly 75 years, it has provided an important link between barley growers, plant breeders and the malting and brewing industries. This new facility will further strengthen this function." The new Cereal Crops Research Unit (CCRU), which will house 35 employees, is located on more than three acres of federal land on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. According to ARS, most of the malting barley cultivars currently used in foods and beverages sold in the US have been scrutinized by the agency's cereal researchers in Madison. Barley malt, which contains natural sugars, can be found in a variety of foods, including breakfast cereals and bakery goods. It is the basic fermentable ingredient in beer. Additional work being conducted by ARS researchers in Madison includes work to better understand the biochemical processes that control the conversion of starch into sugars, which is a crucial value-added trait for malting barleys. They are also focusing on identifying health-promoting compounds found in oats and barley, and on better ways to bolster cereal crops against attack from persistent and costly fungal diseases, like Fusarium head blight on barley and blast on rice.