Research confirms that a natural enzyme in barley straw inhibits odor. But transporting barley straw bales to markets on the East Coast and southern states, where demand is highest, is prohibitively expensive. So AURI is undertaking an initiative to connect supply with demand.
After articles appeared about barley’s odor and algae control benefits, Minnesota Barley Growers President Marvin Zutz says he, “started getting calls from municipalities, airports and the like,” seeking barley to spread on city ponds and between runways. “Then they find out the cost is pretty prohibitive unless they can find it closer.”
AURI Project Development Director Becky Philipp sparked the initiative to densify straw while talking to Zutz at a stakeholder meeting. “We were brainstorming how they could find new uses for barley,” Philipp says. “Traditionally, barley has been grown in northern Minnesota” … but “over the years, barley production has declined significantly,” which is one of the barley association’s primary concerns, Philipp says.
In December, AURI scientist Al Doering started densifying barley straw into pellets. Various forms will be tested to see if they float while maintaining enzymes that control odor. AURI will be working to see if pelleted straw can be effective and economical to produce and ship for use as an odor and algae stopper.
“Overall, it is the hope that by finding alternative uses for barley and more demand for it, producers will again consider if it is cost-effective to return to producing barley,” Philipp says.