(NationalUSNews.com) — Beer has been consumed by humans in some form or another for at least 13,000 years, according to archaeological evidence. Some people are very worried about the effects that climate change will have on the beer industry, but researchers, farmers, and scientists are working together to make sure that humanity will not have to give it up anytime soon.
Hops and barley are two of the key crops integral to the production of beer, and farmers have experienced some climate-related challenges. According to research by Nature Communications, a scientific journal published by Nature Portfolio, hop harvests in Europe may see a decline of up to 18% by 2050.
Shaun Townsend, senior researcher and associate professor at Oregon State University, is working on a project to create hops that are more tolerant of drought conditions. Oregon State University professor Patrick Hayes has made it his life’s work to improve winter barley, which is valuable to beer production in several ways. It is more tolerant of cold weather, even in places like the American Midwest, and can be used as a cover crop to prevent erosion, improve soil health, and keep carbon stored in the ground. There are winter barley programs in nearly every state in America now, but some scientists are not convinced of the promise of winter barley.
Hayes is frightened of a future where volatile climate change makes it difficult for plant breeders to provide the new varieties of barley and hops that will be able to meet those challenges. However, Chuck Skypeck, technical brewing projects director at the Brewers Association, says that US hops producers have been developing resilient hop varieties as well as increasing hop production. He added that similar projects in Europe have also been making a lot of progress.
Skypeck says he doesn’t mean to downplay the issues but feels recent reports have been a “little alarmist”. Still, working towards more sustainable beer production seems to be at the forefront of the industry now. Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser and Bud Light, along with Danish beer maker Carlsberg, have been investing in barley strains that are more resistant to drought grown in Africa to mitigate against possible climate-related problems in their industry in the coming years.
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