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2015 Growing Season and Harvest Update

Conditions across much of western Canada were extraordinarily dry during the spring and the first part of the summer of 2015.  Higher than normal temperatures in April and dry conditions during April and May resulted in rapid planting progress.However the dryness and cooler temperatures during May slowed crop growth and development, and frost at the end of May damaged crops in the eastern Prairies.By the end of May large swathes of the Prairies, particularly in eastern Alberta and western Saskatchewan, had received less than 40% of average precipitation.

Continued drought conditions through most of July and above normal temperatures that month raised the spectre that crop production in Western Canada would fall below 2014 levels and comparisons were made to previous drought years such as 2002 (that year production of the six major crops in W Canada fell to 28.2 mln tonnes from the previous ten year average of 46.3 mln tonnes. This year output is estimated at 49.2 mln tonnes, just below the 10 year average) . However in late July much of the parched western Prairies received precipitation and rains continued to fall through August and September. While they came late in the growing season, the rains were in time to allow crops to fill in limiting what looked like potentially devastating yield losses. This unusual combination resulted in barley with plump kernels and good test weights but higher than average protein content.

With timely seeding, harvest started relatively early however the accumulation of precipitation in August and September was significantly higher than average which slowed harvest and affected barley quality across much of the Prairies.Barley that was harvested early enough was generally good quality however this represented less than half the crop.Barley harvested later tended to have weather damage and pre-harvest sprouting with significant quantities of malting barley production downgraded to feed.

In summary, lack of moisture was a limiting factor of the 2015 crop that resulted in considerable crop stress and contributed to high protein levels. And while late season rains allowed crops to fill in, limiting yield losses, excessive precipitation resulted in downgrading of a substantial portion of the 2015 barley harvest. The result has been a malting barley crop characterized by good plumpness and germination, but with relatively high protein and generalized pre-harvest sprouting in many areas.In spite of the difficult growing season and harvest conditions this year, continued improvements in production and storage practices on the Prairies likely contributed to achieving sufficient selectable malting barley supplies to cover domestic malt industry needs and traditional export markets.

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