The University of Maine will split a $1 million federal grant with the University of Vermont to develop and support the organic grain market in the region.

UMaine Associate Professor Ellen Mallory said the four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was a natural extension of a previous federal grant that focused on developing the local organic wheat economy. This grant will focus more broadly on such grains as spelt, barley, rye and oats, for uses ranging from baking and brewing to producing animal feed.

“Our region now has at least seven flour mills, four malt houses, five distilleries, and dozens of bakeries for whom using locally grown organic grains is central to their business model,” she wrote in the grant proposal. “Concurrently, the need for locally grown organic and non-(genetically modified) feed grains has continued to increase among New England’s organic dairy, chicken, and other livestock producers.”

UMaine will get about 60 percent of the grant, and researchers also will look at disease and production practices.

“Organic farmers face some unique challenges with weed management,” she said.

They will also help farmers modify their current equipment to use new weed management systems, she said. The grant will help pay for conferences and farmer exchanges that will strengthen the organic farmer network.