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Sunshine barley ready to grow

Submitted by Nancy Tarnai
Phone: 907-474-5042


Photo caption below.
Photo by Bob VanVeldhuizen
Barley growing in a research site at Fairbanks Experiment Farm.
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A barley variety developed by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks may provide a new high-nutrient, high-yield crop for Alaska farmers.

The UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station will release the new barley, dubbed Sunshine, in time for spring planting.

Sunshine is hull-less barley, which means it requires little or no processing to remove the hull, which is attached so loosely to the seed that it easily falls off during harvesting. Research that led to Sunshine's creation began in 1993. After the greenhouse research phase, scientists planted fields at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, the Matanuska Experiment Farm in Palmer and the Delta Junction Field Research Site.

This early-maturing, non-waxy barley is specifically adapted to northern environments. Sunshine yields nearly 2,500 pounds per acre and test weights of 57 pounds per bushel.

Following the field trials, the UAF Cooperative Extension Service did kitchen tests on 12 barley varieties. A CES nutrition expert determined that Sunshine is a marketable product, easy to mill, with a nutty flavor and containing an abundance of nutrients. Compared to the price of hulled barley varieties, which sell for $100 to $200 per ton, Sunshine should bring in $5 to $10 for a one-pound bag.

"We want to show growers the possibilities of uses for Sunshine barley," said research assistant Bob VanVeldhuizen, who has worked many years on the project. "In Alaska, you almost have to create the product yourself as we don't have industries to do it."

He foresees some demand for the grain from health food enthusiasts.

"I doubt there will be 100,000 acres of it in Alaska but I see a niche," he said. "There will be small acres, small plots. And the demand might increase once people see it's great."

An official announcement of the new crop will appear in the journal Crop Science and a publication will be prepared by AFES. Foundation seed will be available through the Plant Materials Center, Alaska Department of Natural Resources in Palmer. Breeders' seed is maintained by AFES.

CONTACT: Nancy Tarnai, UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences public information officer, 907-474-5042 or fnnjt@uaf.edu.