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Celebrated Barley Came From A Single Plant

Celebrated Barley Came From A Single Plant

The 200-year-old malting barley variety 'Chevalier' was for a long time world-leading in beer brewing and is thought to have originated from a single plant. In a new study, Swedish researchers from the universities of Linköping and Stockholm have investigated this claim. They have analyzed seed samples that are older than 150 years using molecular genetic methods. The results give a revealing insight into the plant breeding of times gone by.

Can a single ear of  give rise to global cultivation, and change the very foundations of the brewing industry? That seems to be the story of the 'Chevalier' barley variety.

Exactly 200 years ago in England, in the Suffolk town of Debenham, something happened that would change the world of beer brewing forever. The farm worker John Andrews was out in a barley field when his eye fell upon a truly splendid ear, which he took and planted in his own garden. That was where his landlord, Charles Chevalier, first saw the remarkable barley. He harvested the plant and began to propagate it, dubbing it with his own name—Chevalier.

Soon, everybody was growing Chevalier, and by the end of the 19th century more than 80% of all malting barley in England was Chevalier. In fact, the  industry considered Chevalier to be so superior that the very name became synonymous with malting barley. Chevalier's capital properties were noticed around the world, including in Sweden, where test cultivations and improvement of Chevalier were carried out during the second half of the 19th century. Today, Chevalier is a part of the pedigree of many malting barley varieties. Recently, beer brewers have once again started using these kinds of classic malting barley varieties.

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