When the reports of snow fall in Alberta came during the first week of September, it was disheartening to say the least. In spite of a very dry summer, the malting barley crop in many key areas had fared well (with the exception of south western Saskatchewan and southern Alberta where drought had taken a severe toll). The question on everyone's mind when we woke up and saw the pictures from Alberta was: how much had been harvested? When the weekly provincial crop reports came out, they estimated that 35% of Alberta and 65% of Saskatchewan barley was harvested. By that time, Manitoba was pretty much complete. What we know now is that while a lot of malting barley was lost due to the rain and snow, the portion that was already in the bin turned out to be very good quality. The 2018 selected malting barley crop in Western Canada can be characterized, on average, as having higher protein than the past two years, excellent germination, high RVA, limited disease and a clean, light appearance. The barley is surprisingly plump given the dry season, and test weights are also very good. Unfortunately we did lose a significant amount of potential malting barley to the rain and as a result, supplies will be considerably tighter than 2017.
September 13 - After a dry, hot summer that took a toll on Prairie crops, farmers had begun to harvest what was still looking like a pretty good barley crop only to see the weather change in early September with rains stalling harvest in many parts of the Prairies. With about 50% of the barley harvest complete, and early reports of average to above average quality and yields, although higher protein levels, the balance of the harvest is likely to see a lot of malting barley downgraded as a result of the wet weather. As a result it will be several weeks before the industry has a good handle on this year's supplies of malting barley and the quality profile. One bit of good news is that it looks like DON will not be a major issue this year, perhaps a result of the dry conditions. Looking forward, the short term weather outlook is bleak but there may be some drier, sunny weather on the way next week that will allow farmers to get back into the fields and advance the harvest. There is still a long ways to go in many areas, particularly in the western and northern regions of the Prairies.
CANADA: Typically at this time of year we would be reporting the percentage of acres seeded, especially in southern Alberta. But that is not the case as Spring has been elusive and cold temperatures persisted into much of April. Finally the weather has changed over the Prairies in the last week bringing with it much anticipated warm dry air.
The warmer temperatures are been embraced by the Prairies with day time temperatures above seasonal averages. This warm weather, accompanied by windy conditions, have quickly melted the snow packed conditions in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Southern Alberta will have some seeding activity commencing by this weekend, the remainder of the province will be 1-2 weeks later getting into the fields. Saskatchewan is dry in the south and may begin seeding by next week. In the northern tier, the ground is still frozen and it will take a minimum 2-3 weeks before farmers start seeding. In Manitoba, the ground has been void of snow for some time is thawing quickly. The Red River Valley will have some farmers seeding by this weekend.
UNITED STATES: The spring season across the northern half of the US has been one of the coldest on record. Although the day time temperatures are in a warming trend, the ground is still frozen and it will be at least a week before farmers can begin seeding in North Dakota. Barley seeding in Idaho is over 80% complete in the eastern and southern parts of the state. Southern Montana is just starting to seed their barley crop. The northern section, closer to Conrad, have the majority of the acres under water and will be a minimum two weeks before seeding begins. The quick snow melt left much surface flooding and the water has nowhere to go. Some of the land will not get seeded due to the excess water.
September 22: Harvest of spring cereal crops is advancing ahead of normal this year, with barley almost entirely off in Manitoba, 85% complete in Saskatchewan (5-yr average ~70%) and 70% in Alberta (5-yr average ~60%). Barley yields appear to be on trend this year at around 63 bushels/acre, although this is lower than anecdotal reports would suggest, and is well below the record 73.4 bu/acre average of 2016. Protein content in early samples received by the CMBTC have ranged from 10.3-11.9%. Test weight and plumpness of the barley have been good with generally lighter colour than the past two years. Overall quality is looking is looking positive for the 2017 Canadian malting barley crop. Stats Canada estimated all Canada 2017 barley production at 7.2 mln tonnes in their August 31 report compared with 8.8 mln tonnes last year, a drop of 18%.
As of June 7th its a tale of two stories on the Prairies: too wet in some areas to finish seeding; too dry in other areas slowing crop development and generating talk of drought conditions. Barley seeding is now around 85% complete in W. Canada with some central areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta still struggling with too much moisture to complete sowing. Producers who have not been able to seed their other crops may switch to barley or oats which have a shorter growing season. The story is different in southerns part of the Prairies that have received about half of normal rainfall over the past month. Combined with high winds in some areas which has exacerbated dryness and pummeled emerging crops, development is now some 10 days behind normal in parts of south western Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan. These areas will need rain in the next week or two to accelerate growth and prevent crop damage.
Seeding across the Prairies has advanced rapidly in the past two weeks after a very slow start. However while southern Saskatchewan and Alberta have virtually completed seeding, further north the story is very different with continued wet conditions limiting field work. In southern Alberta barley seeding was 87% complete as of May 23rd, but only 16% complete in the north east. Overall cereals were 57% seeded in Alberta as of May 23 compared with the 5 year average of 83%. The situation in similar in Saskatchewan where cereal seeding was 80% complete in the southwest as of May 22 but only 25% in the northeast. The majority of crops are either at or behind normal developmental stages for this time of year. Seeding is almost finished in Manitoba with about 90% of cultivated acres seeded with many growers are already done.
Seeding is well behind average across western Canada this Spring. Alberta Agriculture estimates seeding at 6% complete as of May 2 compared with 21% last year and the 5 year average of 13%. Cool temperatures in April kept soils from drying out and warming up. In Saskatchewan poor weather has delayed spring field work and many fields remain wet. It is estimated that as of May 1 only 1% of crops have been seeded compared with the 5 year average of 6%. Warm, dry conditions will be needed in coming weeks for seeding to get fully under way. In Manitoba, limited precipitation in recent weeks allowed fields to dry out nicely however it is estimated that less than 5% of the crops have been seeded as of May 1 compared with 10% last at this time. Check the following links for crop updates by province: Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan
The US Brewers Association released their 2016 statistics at the end of March. The figures show 5,301 breweries were operating in the US in 2016, with 826 new brewery openings and 97 closings during the year. The breakdown includes 3,131 microbreweries, 1,916 brewpubs and 186 regional craft breweries together totaling 5,234 in the craft sector. The remaining 67 account for all other "large or other wise non-craft" breweries. Craft brewers produced 24.6 million barrels, up 6% year over year, and accounted for 12.3% of US beer sales volume in 2016. However, in terms of the dollars, the craft sector accounted for 21.9% of the US market.
The Canadian Grain Commission has released preliminary information on malting barley quality as well as seeded area and production on their web site as part of the annual Quality of Western Canadian Malting Barley report compiled by the Grain Research Laboratory (GRL) with contributions from the CMBTC. The information can be found here. Among the data of interest are year over year changes in seeded area by variety in Western Canada for 2016. There are a few notable developments, among them CDC Copeland occupied the highest seeded area at 44.7% this year, displacing AC Metcalfe after 14 years as the top seeded variety.