SY VESSEL: A unique winter malting barley in a brewing world

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15 August 2022, UK: Current winter malting barley varieties in the UK are GN (glycosidic nitrile) producers and can only be used for the brewing market. Glycosidic nitrile is a compound that is naturally occurring in barley and is completely safe in the brewing process, however it reacts in the whisky distilling process to form a toxic substance.  For this reason, varieties used in the distilling process must be non-GN varieties. 

Breeders have worked hard to produce spring barley varieties that are non-GN. Laureate is the largest of the non-GN varieties in the UK and can be used in both brewing and distilling. GN-producing spring barley varieties, like Propino, can only be used in brewing. For years this has meant that winter malting barleys have been restricted to brewing only and have not been involved in whisky production. 

However, this is about to change. 

SY VESSEL is a new non-GN winter malting barley from Syngenta, that can be used for malt distilling enabling winter malting barley to produce whisky once again in the UK. This special quality barley is fully National Listed, and contracts are available in East Anglia, Yorkshire, and parts of Scotland.

Syngenta have been working with SY VESSEL in nitrogen trials for the last three seasons. We found that a range of % grain N can be achieved easily by varying the rate. 

Both low % N below 1.65% for malt distilling, and higher % grain above 1.75%, more typical for brewing, could be achieved without going higher than the RB209 recommended rate for the trial fields.

How does SY VESSEL stack up as a variety? 
Source: Syngenta trials 2020-2022 (15 sites)

SY VESSEL tracks the yields of CRAFT in all Syngenta trials over the last three years. Overall, the yields differ by only 0.2 t/ha with CRAFT yielding slightly higher overall.

SY VESSEL is moderately resistant to Brown rust and Net blotch, but more susceptible to Mildew and Rhynchosporium and this is where fungicide programmes should be targeted. Straw strength is similar to that of ELECTRUM, scoring a 7 rating for resistance to lodging. Syngenta place ripening date in between CRAFT and ELECTRUM rating it as a 0 for maturity, similar to CRAFT.

Like the other Syngenta malting barley varieties, SY VESSEL has excellent grain characteristics with a specific weight above both CRAFT and ELECTRUM, and screenings lower than both.

Overall, this special quality winter malting barley is a solid variety, with a yield just below that of the market leader. It has a quality trait unique to the market and the ability to make a range of % grain N suitable for multiple malting markets in the UK.  SY VESSEL really is a fantastic new addition to the malting market, increasing options and possibilities for new, current, and returning growers to winter malting barley.

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