“Clearwater”: An eco-friendly feed barley

06-06-2008 | |

A new barley that benefits the environment as well as farm animals has been developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their colleagues.

“Clearwater” hulless barley is rich in the kinds of phosphorus–an essential
nutrient–that pigs, fish and other single-stomached, or “monogastric,” animals
can use. That’s unlike grain from conventional barleys, which contains more of
the phytate type of phosphorus, the kind that monogastric animals find difficult
to digest. Indigestible phosphorus, leached from manure, can sometimes end up
polluting groundwater or streams.

Clearwater builds upon decades of
research by plant geneticists Victor Raboy, Phil Bregitzer and others at the ARS
Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit at Aberdeen, Idaho.

Raboy uses conventional plant-breeding procedures to chemically tweak
seeds’ phosphorus makeup. The work has paved the way for low-phytate barleys,
such as Clearwater and a hulled type called “Herald,” as well as low-phytate
rice, corn and soybeans.

Bregitzer, Raboy and ARS plant geneticist Don
Obert collaborated in the Clearwater research with Idaho Agricultural Experiment
Station co-researchers Juliet Windes and James Whitmore. A recent article in the
Journal of Plant Registrations contains more details.

Clearwater yields
are about the same as those of other niche-market barleys, according to
Bregitzer. One such market–aquaculture feeds–is already being explored.
Approximately 46,000 pounds of Clearwater were shipped to Vietnam earlier this
year by the U.S. Grains Council of Washington, D.C., and the Idaho Barley
Commission to test Clearwater as a feed ingredient for farm-raised fish. ARS
researchers at Hagerman, Idaho, and Bozeman, Mont., will begin similar
investigations with farm-raised rainbow trout this month.

The Idaho
Agricultural Experiment Station’s Foundation Seed Program at Kimberly has
offered Clearwater seed for sale since late 2007. Researchers and plant breeders
can contact Bregitzer to obtain, at no charge, small supplies of Clearwater or
any of several other feed, food and malting barleys that have resulted from ARS
and Experiment Station barley breeding research.

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