Several hundred varieties of malting barley exist around the world, suited to local conditions.
Malting-type winter barleys (two-row/six-row) are grown mainly in Western Europe (GB/F), with a French preference for producing six-row winter malting barleys. The number of varieties of "winter"-type barley, therefore, is limited compared to the spring varieties developed around the world with agronomic and qualitative adaptations to suit local conditions.
Malting barley, “the high-technology cereal grain,” requires close attention even before sowing and on up through the stage of grain storage.
Given the criteria required for malting and brewing, the grower must comply with several requirements. Following the choice of a malting-barley variety, the sowing conditions are essential for proper setting of the malting barley plants. Then, nitrogen fertilization must be carefully managed to target the desired protein content – an essential criterion for the brewer. Harvesting must be done only at the point of complete physiological maturity and any mixing of varieties must be avoided during transportation and storage.
Spring barleys are relatively sensitive to frost at sprouting, while winter barleys are sensitive prior to tillering and in the Spring, when low temperatures can give rise to sterility phenomena. Among cereal grains, barley is the most sensitive to excess water, which results in an oxygen deficit in the soil, which affects crop growth. Barley is also sensitive to high temperatures during the filling out of the kernel (shriveling), which has an impact on calibration. Climatic conditions during the vegetative cycle of barley play a determining role in germination before harvest.
Spring barley has a relatively short vegetative cycle, and is one of the cereal grains that require the least inputs (fertilizer, crop protection products).
Approximately 10 years are required for the development of a variety of winter malting barley, and 5 to 7 years for a spring malting barley.