A University of Idaho barley agronomist plans to survey barley growers’ challenges throughout the state and use that information to update a barley-production guide and direct his research going forward.

Jared Spackman, who works out of UI’s Aberdeen (Idaho) Research and Extension Center, plans to build on the data gathered in the past couple of years by his predecessor, Chris Rodgers, who is now with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service in Kimberly, Idaho, to understand the needs and challenges of Idaho’s barley growers. Spackman will work with Rodgers on the project.

The information from the survey will lead to growers having timely information they can use to make better decisions for their farm so their farms maintain sustainability over the long term, Spackman said.

The barley-production guide in use today came out in 2004 and is based on data from the 1980s, he said.

A lot of things have changed since then, and surveying barley farmers in the state will speed up the process of getting the data needed to produce a more updated and helpful barley-production guide. Spackman believes by surveying farmers around the state, he can have the data he needs in three years rather than collecting data for another 16 years at the Aberdeen Research and Extension Center.

Barley farming has changed in many ways since the 1980s. The survey should reveal changes in field management, changes in climate and issues caused from climate change, changes in pests and disease pressures, advances in precision agriculture, crop rotation, tillage, seeding rates and irrigation practices.

The survey will also allow Spackman to get reacquainted with Idaho and its agriculture producers.

Eastern Idaho leads the state in barley production. Barley is also produced in south central Idaho around Twin Falls and Burley, on the Palouse and around Sandpoint, he said.

Idaho led the nation in barley production again in 2020, according to the USDA Small Grains 2020 Summary released in September. Gem State growers produced one-third of the U.S. crop this year, or 55 million bushels of barley. The U.S. produced 165 million bushels of barley in 2020.

About 75 percent to 80 percent of the Gem State’s barley crop is for malting, while the rest is used for human or livestock food. There were 15 varieties of barley grown in Idaho in 2020 and 13 in 2019, according to the Barley Variety Survey 2020 from the American Malting Barley Association. Barley varieties grown in Idaho come in names like Merit 57, ABI Voyager, CDC Copeland, Moravian 69, ABI Eagle, Legacy and Thunder to name a few. Malting varieties like ABI Voyager and ABI Eagle were developed by Busch Agricultural Resources.

Barley used for malting improves the flavor of beers and sweetens ice cream malts and products like granola bars, Spackman said. Barleys produced in northern Idaho are sold as feed for livestock or shipped to Asian markets and sold as a rice supplement.

United States ....................... 165,324

Idaho ................................... 55,000

Montana .............................. 45,675

North Dakota ....................... 28,980

Colorado .............................. 6,525

Washington ......................... 6,390

Wyoming ............................. 5,952

Minnesota ............................ 2,350

Pennsylvania ....................... 2,280

Oregon ................................ 1,800

Maryland .............................. 1,533

California ............................. 1,457

Delaware ............................. 1,260

Arizona ................................ 976

Utah ..................................... 850

Maine .................................. 756

North Carolina ..................... 616

South Dakota ....................... 616

Wisconsin ............................ 598

Michigan .............................. 448

Virginia ................................ 441

Kansas ................................ 306

New York ............................. 300

Alaska ................................. 215