Malt Barley Yields Surprise in Challenging 2018

November 26, 2018

By: Lorine McCook & Meagen Reed

Mother Nature did her best to dampen the spirits of Prairie malt barley growers in 2018, but the crop persevered and many growers were pleasantly surprised as combines rolled through fields in late summer.

In northeast Saskatchewan, Syngenta Territory Sales Representative Meagen Reed reports that the crop hung tough through a cool, moist seeding season, followed by severe June temperature swings and a very dry summer to deliver strong yields across much of her region. “Yields were shocking considering the amount of rain,” Reed reports. Overall, AAC Synergy barley yields ranged from 85 to 121 bu/ac with the average yield checking in at 100 bu/ac. Bushel weights were also impressive, consistently tipping the scales in the 55 to 58 pounds-per-bushel range.

“Overall, quality was very good,” Reed says. Rain did arrive in late September but much of the crop escaped the moisture, which caused the late-standing crop to sprout, stain and trend to poorer quality.

Fungicide delivers economic response

September rains also moved across Alberta, but in many areas, it came too late to help the province’s barley growers. “It was an extremely dry year and our barley was heading out by mid-July,” says Lorine McCook, Syngenta’s northern Alberta Territory Sales Representative. With the hot, dry conditions, growers were generally pleased with yields and quality. “The crops were certainly not some of the best malt that we’ve seen come off, but it’ll be okay,” she adds.

With the dry conditions in Alberta, McCook notes that crops experienced very little insect and disease pressure. Reed adds that that the dry weather in Saskatchewan convinced many growers to forgo fungicide treatments in their fields. For many, it made economic sense to skip fungicide applications in a dry year with very little visible disease, but those who did stick with their fungicide regime were rewarded with higher yields.

In a series of fungicide trials across her territory, Reed noted a significant yield response. She’ll be sharing the results with growers this winter. “You’re not going to have a huge yield response every year, but it will pay for itself even when you don’t think it’s warranted. We’ve learned that there’s still value in doing the best agronomic practices,” Reed says.

Early planting pays dividends

McCook hopes growers will have better spring conditions for seeding in 2019. In her area of Alberta, growers like to be in the fields around April 20, but this year, snow arrived on April 30 and growers were forced to cease seeding. Reed notes the 2018 season also reinforced the value of planting early for Saskatchewan malt barley growers.

“Some growers put some barley in and then they do canola and then put barley in at the end,” Reed says. “Anything that was planted early and came off in August was phenomenal quality – acceptance was quite high. For barley that came off after the rain and frost, the quality just dropped right off. Planting date made a huge difference in whether your crop was accepted for malt barley,” she adds.

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