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High yielding Firefoxx offers genetic diversity for malting barley growers and the distilling industry

Frontier’s David Waite, Seed Business development manager for Scotland, advises growers in the North to consider widening their varietal choice of spring malting barley this year to include Firefoxx, an early maturing spring malting barley from breeder Elsoms-Ackermann Barley.

Mr Waite, who has followed the variety’s progress within National List trials since spring 2020, believes Firefoxx cannot only resolve the issue of the UK malting industry’s reliance on Laureate, it can also be a key future variety to stand alongside it within the Scottish distilling market.

“Through 2016 and 2017 the malting barley industry moved, almost overnight, from having one dominant variety in Concerto, to another single dominant variety in Laureate. And this happened despite the industry’s own warnings on avoiding heavy reliance on a single variety which we had been through with Concerto for 8 years prior to Laureate’s arrival.

“Monoculture is never a good thing, and reliance on one variety of any species means that the whole industry, from growers to consumers, is then potentially vulnerable to a breakdown from that single dominant variety.

“Firefoxx, a Chanson/Acorn cross not related to either Concerto or Laureate, offers growers and maltsters a different genetic background that could bring much needed diversity back into the market. Yielding 104%, the equal highest treated yield in the North, it has a good disease package – including a 9 for mildew, stiff straw, and a high score for brackling resistance.

“For maltsters, its low screening levels and its key trait of being less prone to skinning than its competitors also tick the right boxes” adds David.

Commenting on the recent upgrading of Firefoxx from a ‘plus one day’ to ‘zero days’ for its maturity rating on the Recommended List – David sees the reclassification as a significant plus for growers in Northern Scotland.

“In the field its earlier to harvest than competitor varieties such as Tungsten, Laureate and Diablo. However, there is added significance in that RL maturity rating, given that one day on the RL translates into almost half a week in a real farm situation. The further North you go then the ability to harvest a crop several days earlier becomes even more important” he concludes.

Endorsing David’s agronomic assessment of the variety, Elsoms Head of Agriculture, Paul Taylor also sees future export opportunities for UK growers choosing Firefoxx.

“The future malting market looks buoyant, and trials are ongoing within mainland Europe for Firefoxx that does not meet UK distilling specification. In the next 1-2 years there could be export demand for it from lowland European countries. It has all the right agronomic attributes and market appeal to become a popular export malting variety” he concludes.