Chengdao LI

Barley breeder

About This Project

As a young boy growing up in Hubei Province, central China, I always had a thirst for knowledge. Little did I know this thirst for knowledge would ultimately lead to me quenching the thirst of those with a love for full-flavoured beer.

 

In the early 90s, China’s beer consumption was increasing dramatically. High-quality malting barley was becoming a major bottleneck for the expanding industry, with Australian barley constantly competing with Canadian and European barley to capture a greater share of the international market.

 

Against this backdrop, I came to Australia to look for a technical solution to improve the yield and quality of barley. It was here I discovered it would be a win-win for the two countries to work together to solve the problem.

 

Working as a barley breeder at the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, the release of new varieties such as Baudin and Hamelin transformed Australia from a barley commodity provider to a premium barley supplier internationally. The new varieties increased yield and price premiums, boosting barley growers’ income by more than ten percent. Baudin is now the world benchmark for malting quality and still the preferred malting barley variety in China for brewing beer.

 

For decades, I have developed deep collaborations with major customers in China to enhance their awareness of new Australian malting barley varieties and provided technical guidance on how to handle them. Through this linkage, Tsingtao Brewery in China has undertaken commercial malting and brewing for Australian barley varieties.

 

Now, Australia is the world’s largest malting exporter and China is the largest importer, with Australia accounting for over 70% of China’s malting barley import.

 

My work is still not complete. I visit the major breweries in China every year, and with Chinese students at Murdoch University in Western Australia, I’m working closely with our Chinese colleagues to develop a perfect Australian barley to make full-flavour Chinese beer for billions of people around the world… ‘Cheers’ to that!

 

Chengdao Li is Director, Western Barley Genetics Alliance, Murdoch University, Perth.

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