Author Topic: Climate, agriculture, and malt  (Read 1461 times)

Offline Wilbur

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Climate, agriculture, and malt
« on: September 14, 2017, 07:11:23 PM »
Really interesting research on how agricultural products are changing or can change with respect to changing environmental conditions. Relating this back to beer, mashing techniques like decoction, etc. used to be a lot more common. I've always heard that this has mostly gone out of use (I know, people still decoct) due to better/different equipment, but also that malts are becoming better modified. Could single infusion mashes be more effective now partially due to higher CO2 level increasing the sugar/cabohydrate levels in malt?

An Excerpt from the article:
These experiments and others like them have shown scientists that plants change in important ways when they’re grown at elevated CO2 levels. Within the category of plants known as “C3”―which includes approximately 95 percent of plant species on earth, including ones we eat like wheat, rice, barley and potatoes―elevated CO2 has been shown to drive down important minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. The data we have, which look at how plants would respond to the kind of CO2 concentrations we may see in our lifetimes, show these important minerals drop by 8 percent, on average. The same conditions have been shown to drive down the protein content of C3 crops, in some cases significantly, with wheat and rice dropping 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

An here's a graphic showing atmospheric CO2 levels, taken from NASA:

Note: I'm not trying to make this about climate change, and whether it's caused or influenced by man or not. I believe the science is pretty definitive that there are changes in CO2 levels, etc., but I don't want to get into a whole debate on that.

Other science notes:

Elevated CO2 levels reduces water stress on barley

Effect of elevated CO2 (Improved Water utilization & biomass increase) is variety dependent, Little effect on Golden Promise vs. modern bambino variety

CO2 enrichment can affect photosynthesis & biomass production, but quality effects are not well known

Higher CO2 levels increase stress in Barley from reduced antioxidants

Offline ethinson

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Re: Climate, agriculture, and malt
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2017, 11:03:40 PM »
So, that's interesting.  The rise in sugar/drop in protein does seem to be linked to the CO2 levels, as demonstrated in the goldenrod example... but I have a harder time with staple crops like corn or barley.  Yes, surely the environment has had an effect, but those crops have also been specifically bred to produce more carbohydrates.  When starch/sugar is your main commodity that's what you target. 

I wouldn't deny the changes from climate, but I feel our own pressures have been more drastic.  It is worrying with the non-food crops like the goldenrod, so it's certainly a "thing", but I feel like we've made more changes to barley on purpose than slow creep of natural evolution. 

I could totally be wrong, but from my food science background those changes seem more targeted and bred rather than a slow change over time.

My understanding of the mash thing is that the grains have been bred to have higher levels of the enzymes so they do convert quicker and more completely.  I don't know if that has anything to do with the amount of sugar in the grain rather than simply it being a more efficient process.  Modern breeding and modern malting have done a lot of the work for us.
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