University of Minnesota Researchers Release First-Ever Winter Barley Variety
MN-Equinox will be available for growers to plant in Fall of 2022 through Albert Lea Seed
by University of Minnesota Media Contact: Constance Carlson, UMN Forever Green, 612.709.6790St. Paul, MN — Researchers from the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at University of Minnesota announce the release of a new six-row winter barley variety called MN-Equinox. Available for Fall 2022 planting, MN-Equinox is facultative, meaning it can be planted in either the spring or fall, giving growers flexibility in planning their rotations and adapting to weather conditions.
MN-Equinox is the latest crop to be launched with support from the UMN Forever Green Initiative (FGI), a College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) research platform with leadership housed in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics focused on developing winter annual and perennial crops and cropping systems that protect soil and water while also providing new economic opportunities for growers and industry. Other crops in the FGI portfolio include the perennial grain Kernza®, new winter-hardy oilseeds, hybrid hazelnuts, winter peas, and a dozen other crops.
“MN-Equinox is the result of several years of breeding efforts, focused on developing a winter-hardy barley variety for Minnesota and upper Midwest growers that will protect the soil and also provide a harvestable yield for market,” states Kevin Smith, UMN Barley breeder and research lead for winter barley. “We anticipate this is the first in a series of releases of improved winter barley varieties in the upcoming years. The initial market for MN-Equinox is for feed, but research is underway to assess and breed for potential food and beverage applications.”
Growers will be able to purchase MN-Equinox through Albert Lea Seed starting in summer 2022. “We are excited about MN Equinox because we believe it gives farmers a new winter cereal that creates opportunities for them,” explains Mac Ehrhardt, President of Albert Lea Seed. “First of all, barley makes great feed, and if you can plant it in the fall you don’t have to worry about the narrow spring planting window. Second of all, winter barley matures very early, and may allow double-cropping with soybeans.”
Smith agrees and notes that providing growers with more options for rotation planning and diversifying their market opportunities are key reasons why researchers continue to breed for improved winter barley varieties. “Small grain production in Minnesota, and specifically, barley production, has declined precipitously since the ’70s. Yet, small grains can play an important role for growers to build soil health and reduce weed and pest pressure in their rotations.” Smith adds, “We are excited about the potential for winter barley in Minnesota and are pleased to help farmers realize that potential with MN-Equinox.”
Companies or individuals interested in producing and selling certified seed of MN-Equinox should contact the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association to obtain a license for seed production. Released by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, Plant Variety Protection (PVP94) is pending.
ABOUT UMN FOREVER GREEN INITIATIVE:
The Forever Green Initiative (FGI) is a crop research platform within the Department of Agronomy and
Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota focused on developing crops and cropping systems that
provide continuous living cover, ecosystem benefits and economic return. Forever Green is a
collaborative effort that draws on breeding, agronomy, food science, economics and additional expertise
from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), Center for Integrated
Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM), and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable
Agriculture (MISA); with major funding support from the Minnesota Legislature, Minnesota Department
of Agriculture, and USDA-NIFA.
ABOUT ALBERT LEA SEED
Albert Lea Seed is a third-generation family owned & operated farm seed company in business for 99
years. We supply agricultural seed to farmers & farm families nationwide with a focus on organic &
non-GMO farm seed of all types including: Viking Corn, Viking Soybeans, Viking Alfalfa, Small Grains,
Clovers, Grasses, Annual Forages, Cover Crops and Garden Seed.