Originally Posted by Farside
Be sure to post some pics!
I'm thinking about doing some practice maltings with some bought barley soon. It certainly makes sense.
On the growing front, do small berries result in small progeny?
For example, is it worth grading the seed for next season and discarding the small ones, or has it more to do with environmental factors than genetics?
Once I get to production size, these things will start to matter.
(tl;dr) In short, over time, yes, it matters.
(long answer) I was doing a bit of research a few years ago into something unrelated, and uncovered an interesting database of Russian tax records, dating from before the 14th century through the 19th century (earlier was spottier, later records were more complete).
The guy who put the records together noted something about the grain (usu. rye) harvest: The peasants would sort the harvest into three portions, based on berry size. The third with the largest berries would get sold on the market as food. The middle third would be kept for personal consumption. The third with the smallest berries would be re-seeded for the next year.
Over time, there was a definite trend of the harvests getting smaller and smaller, on a per-acre basis. There are lots of factors that can influence it: weather, pre- and post-harvest handling, crop predation, etc. But through the noise caused by those factors, the harvests were getting physically smaller; they were basically selecting for plants that provided smaller seed (berries).
The trend was obvious in as small as 20-year increments; less than that, and the "noise" tended to drown it out.
If you intend to do this as more than a hobby, I recommend arranging your selection differently than how they did theirs... I'd divide in two (or so); save the largest berries for re-planting, and use the smaller ones to malt. That's basically my plan, once I build up enough of a seed-stock to be able to support at least a couple of batches per year with homemade malt.