2022 Malting Barley Seeding Considerations

After one of the most challenging growing seasons in a generation, the barley industry value chain is now looking toward the 2022 growing season. Producer crop seeding decisions will be complicated this year, given the extreme soil moisture deficits in some areas, historically high crop and input prices and constrained seed supply. Last year’s high prices will also impact crop insurance calculations and producers may have additional considerations such as higher than normal residual nutrient levels and herbicide residues in soils.
 
This bulletin addresses the following areas for the 2022 growing season:
  • Growing malting vs. feed barley;
  • Malting barley variety selection for success;
  • Certified vs. farm saved seed;
  • Desired end-user quality characteristics in malting barley
 
MALTING VS. FEED BARLEY
 
Producers who are planning to grow barley should consider the following:
  • Growing a malting barley variety enables producers to access an additional 2-2.5 million tonne marketplace. Canada’s malt processors typically buy over 1 million tonnes of malting barley annually, and in recent years malting barley exports have topped 1 million tonnes (in 2020-21 they reached 1.6 million tonnes);
  • New malting barley varieties have seen considerable improvements in agronomics in recent years with better yields, standability and disease resistance. Producers who opt to grow newer malting barley varieties will typically not lose much in the way of yield compared with high yielding feed varieties like CDC Austenson (see yield data below);
  • Malting barley generally trades at a $0.50-1.00 per bushel premium to feed. On a quarter section of land, based on a 70 bushel per acre yield, malting barley has a $5,600-$11,200 advantage over feed barley; 
  • Growing a malt variety allows producers to further differentiate themselves and to develop relationships and long-term marketing opportunities in the malting sector;
  • Canada is one of only a select few countries supplying malting barley and malt to the world marketplace, and Canada is recognized as a trusted and reliable supplier of premium quality product. With very tight supplies of malting barley globally due to production problems in 2021, producers can expect strong demand for malting barley off the combine in the fall of 2022. 
  • By choosing a malting barley variety, producers have access to both malting and feed markets, mitigating their marketing and price risk. 
 
WHICH MALTING BARLEY VARIETY TO CHOOSE?
 
  • Canada’s barley breeders have developed a lineup of excellent new malting barley varieties, each with strong agronomics and disease resistance, that are poised to replace older malt varieties in the marketplace. 
  • These new varieties also have very desirable end-use malting and brewing characteristics, reinforcing Canada’s position as a supplier of premium quality barley and malt, and are increasingly accepted by domestic and international maltsters and brewers.  
  • As seed supply will be limited for 2022, producers should check with local seed suppliers early.
  • Newer malting varieties such as AAC Connect, CDC Fraser and CDC Bow are already accepted by many domestic and international maltsters and brewers.  
  • Depending on whether a producer is looking for higher or lower amounts of crop residues after harvest, new malting barley varieties vary in the amount of straw they generate. Crop height can be a rough indication of a variety’s straw production.
  • Although production challenges vary across malting barley growing regions, the expanding selection of excellent new malting varieties ensures producers can select a variety that fits their needs.
  • While the dry growing season limited disease pressure in 2021, producers should pay attention to disease resistance in their variety selection and test the seed lot they intend to plant in 2022 as there may still be seed borne disease in 2021 supplies. Test seed as soon as possible so options are still available if new seed supply is required. 
  • Producers should check with their local seed dealers as to which malting barley varieties perform well in their area, and discuss contracting options with their local malting barley buyer. Provincial seed guides are also an excellent source of regional variety performance data.  
 
Improved Yields & Lodging Resistance
 
  • New Canadian malting barley varieties have significant yield improvements over their predecessors. The provincial seed guides indicate yields among the new varieties are comparable to the most widely grown feed barley variety, CDC Austenson.   
Note that each provincial seed guide has its own system of comparing yields, please see the indicator at the top of each table. 
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*2021 Alberta Seed Guide

** 2021 Manitoba Seed Guide

***2021 Saskatchewan Seed Guide

Lodging
 
– In many environments, new Canadian malting barley varieties have improved standability with good to very good lodging resistance compared with older varieties. In some cases, this may enable producers to boost fertilization rates without risk of lodging. 

Note: In areas where environmental conditions, combined with agronomic management (high rates of nitrogen fertilizer), are favorable for lodging, the new cultivars may still lodge.
 
CERTIFIED VS FARM GROWN SEED

  • The drought conditions in 2021 affected both commercial and certified seed crops. Certified seed availability will vary by geography so producers should speak to their local seed suppliers early. Seed companies typically have a seed locator link on their website, or producers can consult provincial seed guides.
  • While the CMBTC recommends producers use certified seed to help guarantee quality and purity, producers can also save and reuse their own farm-grown seed. Regardless of the seed source, it is important to know seed germination, thousand kernel weight and disease analysis from an accredited lab to ensure seed is not diseased and calculate appropriate seeding rates. 
  • Most seed sellers will test for thousand kernel weight and disease, so be sure to ask. It is also important to note that it is illegal for producers to sell or trade varieties with Plant Breeders Rights (PBRs) without the permission of the breeder.

 
DESIRED END-USER QUALITY CHARACTERISTICS IN MALTING BARLEY
 
There are many quality characteristics in malting barley that buyers consider, including protein levels (see below), germination energy (> 95%) and pre-harvest sprouting, plumpness (> 90%), uniformity, test weight (higher the better), disease, chemical residues, and peeled and broken kernels.  

While some of these characteristics are largely driven by cultivars and weather, producers can influence quality characteristics such as protein, disease levels, pesticide residues and germination energy, as well as peeled and broken kernels through good management, harvest, storage and handling practices. 

Protein

  • Desired protein levels depend on end users and their particular brewing practices. The North American malting and brewing industry is generally looking for protein levels between 10.5-12.5%, with the exception of the all-malt or craft brewing sector which likes lower protein levels (10-11.5%). Certain off-shore customers of Canadian malting barley, such as China, prefer higher protein levels of 11.0-13.0%. If producers are growing malting barley without a contract, it is likely to go for export where demand is generally for higher protein. 
  • As new varieties tend to have protein contents of 0.5-1.0% lower than AC Metcalfe, they may be able to handle additional nitrogen application without exceeding acceptable protein levels for malt.
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ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR SEEDING 2022

Soil Testing for Soil Nutrient Levels & Chemical Residues
  • Depending on the amount of rainfall received in 2021, fields may have seen reduced fertilizer uptake resulting in higher-than-average residual nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in soils. However, the dry conditions also may have limited mineralization. These competing biotic processes make it unclear what residual nutrient levels will be. It is therefore recommended that producers have their soil tested to ensure accurate application rates and increase potential for malt acceptance.
  • Herbicide residue levels may also be higher than normal with some chemistries due to the drought, as a lack of rainfall and soil moisture limitations have decreased soil microbial breakdown of some herbicides. Since barley may be tolerant to some of these residual herbicides, it may be a good crop option where residual herbicide carryover is a concern. (Canola, durum wheat and canary seed are very sensitive to crop injury from some of these residual herbicides that have not broken down).
  • Growers should carefully assess the relative risk of residual herbicide carryover in their growing area and consult with a knowledgeable agronomist when planning their crop rotations and herbicide choices.  

Contracting

Producers are encouraged to consult their local maltster or grain company when deciding which malting barley to grow. Along with agronomic and market information, maltsters and grain companies can provide producers with details about their malt barley contracting programs. 
 
Crop Protection Products

Producers should refer to the Keep it Clean campaign for information on acceptable crop protection products for malting barley and feed barley. Pre-harvest desiccants and glyphosate are not accepted by the malting industry. Newly registered plant growth regulators in Canada may be accepted by some end-users, but producers should check with their grain buyer before using these products.
 
PREPARING FOR 2022 SEEDING, THE CMBTC RECOMMENDS THAT PRODUCERS:
 
  • Choose a malting barley variety to enable marketing opportunities for both the malting/brewing or feed sectors;
  • Talk to their local maltster, grain buyer, seed grower, or contact a provincial grower association or the CMBTC, to discuss which varieties are most suitable to grow in their region; 
  • For newer malt varieties, secure a contract with a malting or grain company buyer;
  • Take early steps to ensure adequate seed supply; if using farm-saved seed, check seed quality at an accredited lab;
  • Conduct soil tests for residual nutrient availability;
  • Carefully assess the risk of residual herbicide carryover and choose low risk crop rotations, which may include barley.

Sources of Information

To find the most up-to-date information for each variety, refer to your province’s seed guide to find data and seed distributors. Variety selection should consider yield, agronomic and disease indicators that align with farm-specific needs. 

See also the CMBTC’s recommended list for the list of barley varieties that have the greatest potential to be selected for malting.