A new on-farm project will explore how barley can be grown in a more sustainable way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining crop performance.
The ambition of the regenerative farming trial is to produce barley with 50% lower GHG emissions within five years.
Malted barley contributes 39% and 41% to the carbon footprint of beer and whisky respectively.
In the first year, 16 farmers are dedicating around 400 acres specifically to the trial, producing over 1,000 tonnes of barley from spring and winter varieties.
The trial is an effort between Japanese multinational brewing group the Suntory Group, malt supplier Muntons, supply chain consultancy Future Food Solutions and Norfolk-based barley farmers, Dewing Grain.
The project will start by baselining all crop-related emissions, which will inform an innovative nature-based programme of interventions that seek to reduce emissions while maintaining grain quality.
The success of this trial could pave the way for reducing the overall value chain of production by 20% in a single leap.
Adrian Dyter, head of procurement at Muntons, said: "We’re proud to have been the first maltster to develop a carbon calculator to help identify where the biggest impact of reductions can be made.
"We have invested heavily in reducing Scope 1 & 2 emissions and water conservation and have decarbonised our maltings by 83% since 2007.
"We are now looking to Scope 3 and collaborations with forward leaning farmers and drinks producers to help achieve ambitious net-zero goal of 2030 and vision to make a real difference.”
The pilot will focus on a number of sustainable farming techniques including inter-row cropping and growing cover crop mixes.
These will include varieties such as Siletina Oil Radish, Winter Rye and Oats, Berseem Clover and Phacelia.
Outcomes will be measured in terms of the amount of CO2 sequestered by the soil and the reduction in the amount of nitrogen needed to be added to the crop to produce healthy yields.
Josh Dewing, trading director of Dewing Grain, said they were 'delighted' to be taking part in the initiative to trial low carbon farming.
"As an agricultural business that has taken sustainability seriously for some time now, it is fantastic to see leadership on this issue from big brands looking to bridge that gap between producer and consumer.
"With the trial covering a huge amount of acreage, it has the potential to generate some really positive outcomes for the environment and demonstrate farming’s vital role in mitigating climate change.”