Official harvest progress by Province:
- As of Sep 22, Alberta barley harvest is estimated at 66% complete (source AB Ag).
- South – 93%
- Central – 62.1%
- North East – 52.8%
- North West – 46.0%
- Peace – 26.4%
- As of September 22, Manitoba barley harvest is estimated at 95% complete (source MB Ag).
- Southwest – 95-100%;
- Central – 95-100%;
- North West – 90%
- As of Sep 21, Saskatchewan barley harvest is estimated at 86% complete (source SK Ag).
Western Canada is poised to harvest a large grain crop with most areas of the Prairies having received sufficient moisture this growing season. While some pockets have been too dry, most of the grain growing regions have received sufficient to excess amounts of moisture this season. As harvest begins, the CMBTC has some considerations for producers of malting barley to help ensure their barley has the highest changes of selection as malt.
Use of Glyphosate, Desiccants on Malting Barley in Canada
Selectors and buyers of malting barley in Canada require that barley must not have been treated with pre-harvest desiccants, in an effort to uniformly dry the crop, or glyphosate products for controlling perennial weeds. Contracts with growers generally state that malting barley shall not have been treated with desiccants or other products such as glyphosate or saflufenacil. Use of these products is not accepted by the malting barley industry in Canada due to the potential for compromised quality such as a reduction in germination capacity, reduced kernel size and lower test weight.
In Canada, the “Keep it Clean” program provides farmers with guidance on the proper use of crop protection products. The following statement is provided on the Keep it Clean web site: Malt Barley – Glyphosate (i.e. Roundup), Saflufenacil (i.e. Heat) will not be accepted by grain buyers if treated pre-harvest.
Many Western Canadian buyers and selectors have technical staff to aid farmers with management decisions on how to achieve premium malt quality without using glyphosate, saflufenacil or desiccants, by applying specific practices such as early seeding, manipulating plant population to reduce tillering and increase uniformity, use of swathing, and choosing correct genetics for a specific growing area. The can also provide guidance of how to dry down malting barley after harvest (see also below).
Drying & Storage of Malting Barley
With many areas experiencing higher than average precipitation this season, malting barley may come off with higher levels of moisture in some regions. As a result, an important consideration for farmers with malting barley will be drying and proper storing and monitoring of the grain to ensure quality does not deteriorate. Generally speaking barley should be dried down to 13.5% moisture for storage or delivery into the system. If your barley has excess moisture levels (i.e. above 13.5%), it is at risk of heating, loss of germination and other issues such as mold and mildew during storage.
How to dry your malting barley
- If your moisture level is >13.5%, you should endeavour to bring the grain moisture down.
- Do not store malt barley @ >14.5% moisture for prolonged periods of time. Fungi and bacteria grow more quickly on higher moisture grain.
- In some circumstances, moisture will need to be removed from barley using driers. The basic rule with malting barley is “low and slow” with air temperatures not exceeding 68C and grain temperatures not exceeding 42C.
- Do not aerate when foggy or raining as moisture will accumulate on the surface of the grain potentially causing spoilage organisms to proliferate
Monitoring your barley after storage
The industry standard for germination energy in malting barley is minimum 95%, and good storage conditions can help maintain malting barley vigour. Heating, mold and mildew can also lead to barley being rejected for selection as malt. Here are some tips to keep your barley in condition:
- Run your aeration fans on cold days to cool (and eventually freeze) your bins. Cool and dry grain has greatly improved shelf life.
- If air/heat is not possible in the bin to dry the grain, you may need to remove all or part of the grain from your bin to dry it, or at least cool it down, before putting it back in the bin.
- Check your bin tops for moisture migration. A small bit of tough barley can ultimately spoil the whole bin if not addressed.
- If you have concerns, you can submit a sample to your local malting barley buyer to check the germination level of your barley.
CMBTC 2020 Seeding Considerations/Recommendations
After a difficult harvest in 2019, the CMBTC has an number of recommendations for farmers planning to grow malting barley in 2020:
- Buy certified seed to improve your chances of achieving malt: Certified seed will generally reduce incidence of disease, and increase evenness of germination and crop uniformity. Varietal purity is also important for selection.
- Using on farm seed: If you plan to use on farm seed, get it tested. Verify the germination, it should be minimum 85%, some seed may have lost it’s vigor.
- Soil Health: Excessive wet conditions last fall may have caused leeching of fertilizer and other chemicals, its important to get fields tested.
- Consider your crop rotation – barley should not be seeded on cereal ground.
Reminder re: Storage of 2019 Crop
A large tonnage of 2019 barley was harvested wet and there was quite a lot of barley stored in bags. With wide temperatures swings this winter, farmers should be diligent in monitoring and testing the barley in bins and in bags. While malting barley may still be in condition, a lot of barley suffered pre-harvest germination and is unlikely to maintain its vigour into hot summer months. As a result, farmers with malting barley should look at marketing it prior to warming temperatures.
The difference between feed and malt can be $1.50/bushel or more!
With the challenging 2019 harvest behind us (at least for most) an important consideration for farmers with malting barley this winter will be properly storing and monitoring the grain to ensure quality does not deteriorate. Even barley that did not appear chitted at harvest is showing signs of pre-harvest sprouting when tested, and in some cases this is resulting in a loss in germination. If your barley has excess moisture levels (i.e. above 13.5%) and/or has not had a chance to cool down since harvest, it is at risk of heating, loss of germination and other issues such as mold and mildew.
Generally speaking, the industry standard for germination in malting barley is minimum 95%, and good storage conditions can help maintain malting barley vigour. Heating, mold and mildew can also lead to barley being rejected for selection as malt.
What to do?
- Check your bin tops for moisture migration. A small bit of tough barley can ultimately spoil the whole bin if not addressed.
- If your moisture level is above 13.5%, you should try to get the moisture down.
- Run your aeration fans on cold days to freeze your bins. Cool and dry grain has greatly improved shelf life.
- If air/heat is not possible in the bin, you may need to remove all or part of the grain from your bin to dry it, or at least cool it down before putting it back in the bin.
You can submit a sample to your local malting barley buyer to check the germination level of your barley. Questions can also be directed to:
Jill McDonald, SaskBarley
Jeremy Boychyn, Alberta Barley
Check out this video from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture with Mitchell Japp, Provincial Specialist – Cereal Crops, and Matt Enns, barley farmer and maltster from Rosthern, discussing how to grow harvest great malting barley!
Made in Canada Tour Details
Custom tour for brewers and maltsters to view the newest Canadian malting barley varieties. During the tour, participants will have the opportunity to see plots and fields of new varieties such as AAC Connect, CDC Bow, Lowe, CDC Fraser, TR15155 and others alongside existing varieties such as AC Metcalfe, CDC Copeland and AAC Synergy.
Date: July 23 – 25, 2019
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Cost: Free (with the exception of travel and accommodations)
Canada’s barley exports in the first 4 1/2 months of the year (Aug to mid Dec) reached 954,000 tonnes, ahead of last year’s strong program at this time of 772,000 tonnes, and well ahead of the 5-year average of 519,000 tonnes.
Looking at StatCan export data, the big year over year difference on exports has occurred in sales to Japan at 57,400 tonnes in the first 3 months (3,059 tonnes last year at this time), as well as the Middle East (Kuwait and UAE) where 105,000 tonnes were shipped in October. Sales to China, at 278,000 tonnes as of October, lag last year’s movement which was 399,000 in the first 3 months of the marketing year.
Looking at other exporters, as of their December estimate the USDA has Australia barley exports forecast at 5.4 mln tonnes (6.1 mln tonnes in 2017-18); Russia barley exports at 4.7 mln tonnes (5.8 mln tonnes in 2017-18); Ukraine barley exports at 4.5 mln tonnes (4.3 mln tonnes in 2017-18) and EU exports at 5.3 mln tonnes compared with 5.8 mln tonnes in 2017-18.
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.