Outlook Clouded by Lack of Transparency
There’s always plenty of uncertainty in grain markets; that’s a given. Of course, the biggest unknown comes from the weather, even with meticulous forecasting models. That’s why asking someone to predict prices six months, a year or two years down the road either ends up as lucky guesswork or failure. But that’s a story for another time.
Then there is the uncertainty that comes from government actions. At times, this can come from misses in official estimates from outfits like StatsCan or the USDA but those (in my opinion) are caused by error, not deliberate misinformation. Beyond that, another level of intentional haziness exists in certain markets, including barley.
When a single country dominates the export outlook for a crop, it adds a lot more risk. And for crops like barley (as well as canola, peas and flax), China is central to the demand side of the balance sheet. In 2020/21, Canadian barley exports will likely end up the highest in almost 30 years, and China accounts for 90% of that total.
Just to give an idea of what this year’s extra demand from China means to the barley balance sheet, the chart shows our latest forecast for 2020/21 ending stocks at about 400,000 tonnes, the lowest on record. This is based on our Chinese export estimate of 3.1 mln tonnes. If exports to China had instead stayed at the 2019/20 level of 1.43 mln tonnes (while Japan imported more), this year’s ending stocks would be over 1.6 mln tonnes, well above average. And prices would not have been able to hit the record levels seen this year.
If we look ahead to 2021/22, with a bigger Canadian crop expected, the market will depend even more on Chinese demand. Even if exports to China next year remain unchanged at record levels and everything else is roughly steady, 2021/22 ending stocks would rise to 1.4 mln tonnes. But if those exports would slip back to 2019/20 levels, ending stocks could top 2.5 mln tonnes, definitely burdensome.
With such huge variability in the outlook, almost entirely due to Chinese demand, it would be great if we could get an idea about the situation there. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Official production estimates are either propaganda (for example, “the 17th consecutive bumper harvest”) or are designed to push prices lower by misleading. Its estimates of grain stocks are just as questionable. And more recently, reports have filtered out of China that the largest independent grain market analyst was shut down by police.
Rather than analyze the infrequent and inaccurate Chinese government announcements, we’re left with monitoring the actions, and those are encouraging. Chinese Customs data is generally reliable and has shown a bounceback in barley imports, with over a million tonnes per month each in March and April. Then, over the past six weeks, the CGC is showing over 700,000 tonnes of Canadian barley exports, most of it headed to China. And more recently, the USDA has been reporting multiple consecutive days of large 1.0-1.4 mln tonne corn sales to China for delivery in 2021/22.
Rather than paying attention to what China says, these actions indicate feed demand from the country is still exceptionally strong. And heavy new-crop bookings suggest that’s going to be the case into 2021/22. The demand may not be enough to use up all of the bigger 2021 Canadian barley crop, but the signals are pointing to another year of solid prices.
Spring Frost Risks in Cereal Crops
When emerged cereal crops experience night-time temperatures below 0°C, the question of crop survival is never far from a producer’s mind.
In general, wheat is relatively resilient to frost as compared to crops like canola. Wheat leaves can survive air temperatures down to -8°C to -10°C, however, leaves may see some leaf tip burn. This is indicated by recent research investigating ultra-early seeding of CWRS wheat (Collier et al., 2021).
Barley is less resilient and will exhibit frost damage at temperatures closer to -4°C to -6°C (R. McKenzie, personal communication). Minimal frost tolerance research on barley has been conducted. However, the chance of plant death is low at these temperatures, especially when soil temperatures are warmer. Warmer soil, and especially moist soil, is buffered from temperature changes which helps to protect the growing point of cereals from late spring frost. This is due to wheat and barley plants having their growing point under the soil surface until stem elongation (begins after the 3 leaf stage and tiller initiation) when the inflorescence, or developing head, begins to move above the tillering node. The growing point of the plant must be damaged for the plant to die. For this to happen, extended time periods below freezing would need to occur. If only the leaves are damaged, the plant can grow back from that protected growing point, but the crop will be delayed.
Plant Growth Regulator (PGR) Options for Barley
Now that both Manipulator and Moddus are registered for use on barley in Canada, growers have a couple choices for helping mitigate lodging risk in their crops.
However, you may still have questions about which products are effective for your farm and safe for marketing purposes. Always check with your grain buyer before applying these products, but here are some recent developments.
The plant growth regulator chlormequat chloride (Manipulator) has been updated to Yellow/Be Informed status under the Keep it Clean program, for use on all Barley in Canada (malt, feed and food). Malting barley had previously been classified as yellow.
This classification is a signal to growers to check with their grain buyers before using Manipulator on barley to ensure it will be accepted. Most malting companies and some grain companies have signaled they will not accept barley treated with Manipulator. Manipulator is classified as green/acceptable for wheat and oats.
Researchers on the Prairies have been working with chlormequat chloride (Manipulator) and trinexepac-ethyl (Moddus) to evaluate effectiveness on barley. Agronomists at Alberta Barley, Manitoba Crop Alliance and SaskBarley summarized the results and best practices.
We launched a podcast!
Earlier this month, we launched a new tool to help Saskatchewan barley farmers keep up to date with the latest information related to growing and marketing their barley crops.
The first season of the Barley Bin, a podcast featuring interviews with SaskBarley staff and a variety of barley research and production experts, is now available on the SaskBarley website.
Season one of the podcast focuses on information related to disease management, barley varieties, marketing opportunities and more.
Barley market report updates
Crop moving to next stage of market cycle
Even though fresh supplies of barley won’t show up in Western Canada for a few months, the bull market of 2020/21 is already running out of steam, as it had to at some point. All the same factors that pushed barley prices to record highs are still in place, but the lack of fresh news means tight supplies aren’t able to lift the market to the same degree.
The next stage of the market cycle normally starts to show up as users and exporters look beyond the short-term situation, which still features very tight supplies. But once they’ve booked enough barley to meet their immediate needs, the focus shifts entirely to the 2021 crop and that transition is already happening.
Domestic feed use is still the largest part of Canadian barley consumption and volumes consumed have been up the last couple of years. Even so, the increase in exports is the real tipping point and is the main reason for record prices in 2020/21. China became an even more dominant customer this year, taking 85-90% of Canadian barley exports. Our full-year export forecast of 3.15 mln tonnes would be the largest since 1996/97 (back when Saudi Arabia and the US were the two largest buyers).
Even though barley will continue to flow steadily to China through the rest of 2020/21, most of that barley has already been bought. This export business has already been factored in and the slowdown in fresh buying will allow prices to back off.
Barley prices in western Canada haven’t actually seen much of a decline yet and the first signals of a turnaround are actually coming from other exporting countries. One reason for the steady prices here is that domestic feeders are still booking some old-crop barley, although those volumes seem to be dwindling too. In countries like Ukraine and France, the 2021 harvest comes in earlier and as buyers look ahead to fresh supplies, prices are already shifting to new-crop levels.
Of course, none of the 2021 harvests are in the bin yet and situations can change. That’s especially the case in western Canada, where concerns about dry conditions are widespread. Overall though, odds of a boost in global production are fairly strong. And in western Canada, we’ve heard forecasts of big increases in barley acreage which raises the potential of a major production increase (if the weather cooperates).
We also know the Canadian barley market doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Outside influences include corn crops in the US and South America and rising geopolitical tensions with China, among others. Each of these factors is highly uncertain at this point and could significantly change the outlook. But at this point, the 2021/22 market looks like it will be friendlier for barley feeders than barley growers.
Seed test results map for Saskatchewan barley
Data is a good reminder to get seed tested this year
See below a map of fusarium infection in barley seed samples from across Saskatchewan, based on data collected up until December 2020 from Prairie Diagnostic Seed Labs, Discovery Seed Labs and 20/20 Seed Labs and published by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture (with funding from SaskBarley, SaskWheat, SaskOats and SaskPulse).
Farmers are reminded to get seed tested for disease and consider a seed treatment for diseased seed.
Seed treatments can be very beneficial when needed but may not be required in all situations. Research in winter wheat led by Brian Beres has shown increased yield stability using a seed treatment in combination with seed size and seeding rate enhanced yield stability, but the economic returns for the seed treatment were highest when the seed size, used as a proxy for vigour, was smaller. Barley specific research led by Kelly Turkington found variable responses to seed treatment – it was clearly beneficial in environments more prone to leaf disease.
Considerations where a seed treatment should be considered include at least the following:
- Seeding when the soil is cold;
- Seeding into dry conditions;
- Seeding infected seed;
- Seeding low vigour or small seed;
- Seeding in fields where root or seedling diseases have been a problem in the past;
- Seeding in fields where there have been insect pests.
Seed treatments should be selected based on the target pest and/or pathogen. They can be a single or dual action product.
Applying a seed treatment requires some set-up. It is important to ensure complete coverage of the seed with modern seed treatments. The flow rate of seed must be measured and matched to the flow rate of the seed treatment and two-stage mixing will be required.
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s Guide to Crop Protection provides an overview of available products for seed treatments, as well as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. It is also a good resource for general agronomy and safety measures for pesticides.
Seeding is a huge operation. It requires many hours of preparation and even more putting the crop in the ground. It is also critical to get it right. The whole crop year depends on getting seed in the ground successfully to establish and grow a good crop. Crop establishment is the starting point and will be an important factor in yield potential for the season. It’s worth investing time in variety selection, seed testing, seeding rates, seeding dates and seed treatments.
New insecticidal seed treatment available for controlling wireworm
There is a new crop product available to barley producers this growing season that is showing great potential to help with your crop production. Teraxxa F4 is a BASF insecticidal seed treatment that controls and eliminates wireworm, which has been a significant issue for barley producers in Saskatchewan.
Growers are reminded to seek input from professionals before you use any new product on your crop. Talk with your grain buyer, including your grain company rep, and/or local elevator operators about how new crop products you plan to use could affect your marketing plans.
We need you!
Consider joining our Board
- Are you interested in helping us discover new and innovative ways to grow barley in Saskatchewan?
- Do you have great ideas and opinions related to growing and marketing Saskatchewan barley?
- Are you interested in helping us learn how to better market our crops?
- Are you interested in having new experiences, travelling (when regulations permit) and meeting new and likeminded people?
- Are you interested in helping all farmers in Saskatchewan be more sustainable and successful?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, we have an opportunity for you! It’s an election year for us; we will need to fill three positions on our Board as of January 2022. Nominations will open in June so watch for more information. If you have any questions in the meantime and/or are interested in learning more, please reach out to any of our current Directors or staff any time.
Big news! We are funding approximately $1 million in new barley research
Earlier this month we announced we are funding another approximately $1 million of barley research (more than $2.3 million including in-kind and other support) over the next four years – a major advancement for barley producers in Saskatchewan.
This funded research is the result of a call for research proposals we issued last year, with a goal to invest in new and exciting barley research – not available through traditional research channels — to benefit Saskatchewan producers.
As a result, we received 18 full applications, of which we approved nine. The newly funded research is focused on areas such as: exploring novel mechanisms of resistance to fusarium head blight; management of other diseases in barley; optimizing processing practices; and enhancing malting barley quality for beer production.
With this latest investment, we are nearly where we want to be in terms of barley research investments, now allocating more than 60 per cent of our annual budget towards this goal.
Barley market outlook
Lots of excitement in the barley market
Over the past year, many of us have gotten very tired of hearing the word “unprecedented,” particularly referring to the Covid-19 situation.
But when “unprecedented” is used about grain markets, it feels a lot better. Most crops have seen very strong prices this year and for some like barley, prices have never been this high – truly “unprecedented.”
Depending on location, elevator bids are well north of $6 per bushel (bu), with some feedlots in southern Alberta closer to $7/bu. Malt barley bids have also moved sharply higher, although most of the gains were actually driven by feed barley pushing from below.
The barley rally is being fueled by the largest Canadian exports since the mid-90s. China is the overwhelmingly dominant buyer, paying high enough prices to scare off most other buyers. Now that the much larger Australian crop is available at cheaper prices, Japan and countries in the Middle East have shifted their purchases to Australia and don’t need to compete with China.
Even though Canadian barley exports are less than half of domestic feed use, that proportion has been rising in the last couple of years. In 2020/21, the additional 850,000 tonnes of barley flowing out of Western Canada into export channels have forced livestock feeders to compete with aggressive Chinese buyers. Often in the past, high barley prices triggered more imports of United States’ (U.S.) corn but this year, corn is even more expensive than barley, largely ruling out imports. Supplies of feed wheat are also stretched thin and some feeders are now resorting to importing cheaper U.S. barley to help fill the gap.
Geopolitical issues are making trade flows a lot more complicated than in the past. Saudi Arabia isn’t buying any Canadian barley while China has imposed 80% import tariffs on Australian barley. More recently, Russia has started to impose taxes on exports of barley and other crops, which could disrupt things further. Because these decisions are made by government, policy shifts certainly can change the outlook abruptly and dramatically, adding some risk to the outlook.
One of the big questions for 2021/22 is how much Canadian acreage will expand. There’s been a lot of buzz about planting barley this year, leading to some big acreage forecasts for Western Canada. High prices of numerous crops are causing fierce competition for acres and could offset barley’s expansion.
As always, this type of environment raises the risk of overproducing, although a bigger barley crop is needed simply to rebuild supplies back to normal levels. Of course, farmers in other countries are also seeing the high prices and will also try to respond with bigger production, but acreage competition is intense around the globe.
Aside from acreage, there are a lot of other “ifs” that will affect the market. Yields in Canada and elsewhere are the largest factor influencing the outlook and it’s simply too soon to make any meaningful calls. That said, there are already concerns about dryness in Western Canada. The other main unknown is whether China will continue to buy at a similar pace in 2021/22. Not only is the country’s own crop outlook in question but its hog herd situation is also highly uncertain. There are plenty of factors to watch as the 2020/21 season winds down and the 2021 outlook unfolds.
Seeding considerations for this spring
By Mitchell Japp
Seeding sets the stage for the season. Seeding time is exciting and full of anticipation of the year ahead. But, it is also hectic, rushed and stressful. Planning ahead to get set up for season is one step towards setting up for a great crop season and helps to alleviate some of the pressures of seeding time.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researcher John O’Donovan led a significant number of malt barley agronomy projects about 10 years ago. Included in that work was a significant review of seeding rates. The research team tested seeding rates across multiple environments and found 300 live seeds/m2 was the optimum rate.
What does that mean on the farm? Seeding rate recommendations are often made with a specific plant population in mind. The rate will vary depending on target plant population, germination, seed weight and seedling mortality. Each operation will have varying degrees of seedling mortality, depending on their equipment, seeding depth, moisture, soil and more. The researchers fixed what they could control (live seeds accounts for germination) and analyzed their data based on that variable. Plant populations for a treatment with 300 live seeds would vary, so analysis becomes less clear. They did measure the populations and generally had 200-220 plants/m2 at that seeding rate. That recommendation is based on a broad range of environments and specific agronomic management.
So, what happens if you select a seeding rate based on pounds per acre or bushels per acre? The challenge with a weight or volume based approach to seeding rates is that it cannot account for variation in seed size or germination. Seed size can vary widely, and if seeding rates are not adjusted accordingly, the target plant population may be higher or lower than desired. Seed weight varies by variety, location and year, so even using your own seed will end up with variation from year to year.
(target #plants/m2)*TKW (grams) = Seeding rate (kg/ha) (*0.89 to convert to lbs/ac)
% germination + field mortality
220 * 50 = 129 kg/ha * 0.89 = 115 lbs/ac
Where, the target plant stand is 220 plants/m2, thousand kernel weight is 50 g, and germination and mortality is 85%. Expected mortality for cereals is 5-20%. In this example, I assumed 95% germination and 10% mortality.
As shown above, targeting a plant stand similar to O’Donovan’s research results in a bit more than 2 bu/ac seeding rate.
If we look at it in reverse and consider a 2 bu/ac seeding rate for two different seed lots, what will the expected difference in plant stand be?
96 lbs/ac * 85 = 183 plants/m2
0.89 * 50
96 lbs/ac * 85 = 203 plants/m2
0.89 * 45
Where, assuming 48 lb barley, 96 lbs/ac equals 2 bu/ac seeding rate, 0.89 is the conversion to metric, 50 and 45 are the thousand kernel weights in each example and 85 is the combined germination and mortality rate.
As shown in the above examples, even a relatively small change in seed weight (thousand kernel weight) results in a 10% change in plant stand.
Barley is relatively tolerant to spring frosts and is considered to start growing at as little as 3ºC, although that is not the optimal temperature for growth. That makes it an ideal candidate for early seeding. John O’Donovan looked at seeding dates for barley as well, comparing early May to late May. His research generally supports early seeding for barley, especially malt barley, but not in all environments.
The researchers found that in most environments, delayed seeding led to negative outcomes for malt barley, including increased protein concentration, and decreased plumpness, and in some cases, yield. However, in six of the 24 environments tested, later seeding led to higher yields.
The environments tested ranged across the prairie region. Previous work focused in southern Alberta found a clear yield reduction with later seeding. Because this study included more environments, they found that earlier seeding was more favourable in southern locations and delayed seeding performed better in more northerly locations.
Early considerations for seeding this year
Now that we have emerged from the polar vortex, that covered most of Saskatchewan for the past couple of weeks, even -20°C seems warm and refreshing. It is enough to remind us that spring really is just around the corner. Planning for spring planting probably started last fall, but the task list as we approach spring is growing.
Strong demand for barley from China has strengthened barley prices the past few months. Buyers are locking up supply for new crop barley at attractive prices. As a result, there is a lot of interest in barley. Seed for feed varieties may be hard to come by now. Saskatchewan normally grows 70-75% of barley acres as malt varieties, so the available seed for feed varieties will be more limited. That said, many of the new malt varieties rival the feed varieties for yield. And, with a malt variety, the marketing options are more flexible, opening up another two million tonnes of market that a feed variety does not offer.
The newest malt varieties that are seeing growing demand from malt companies are CDC Bow, AAC Connect and CDC Fraser. They offer improved straw strength, improved disease resistance and higher yields compared to varieties like CDC Copeland or AC Metcalfe. The Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC) recently released an overview of these new varieties.
The SaskSeed Guide and Varieties of Grain Crops are excellent resources for comparing new varieties, which also includes CMBTC’s Recommended Malting Barley Varieties List. SaskBarley supports the regional variety trials that generate the data to support the variety guide.
Whether you are buying new seed or using your own seed, a seed test is a critical and inexpensive source of knowledge to get your crop started right. Not knowing the germination or having a seedling disease could be the difference between a bumper crop and an average or even poor crop.
There are qualified seed testing labs across the province and prairies. A list of accredited labs can be found on the Canadian Seed Institute website. “Accredited” means that the lab has been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to conduct standardized seed tests. Not all tests offered at a seed testing lab are regulated. Generally, germination and seed purity are the accredited tests. That means that regardless of what lab you go to, if it is accredited, they will conduct those tests in the same way.
Germination, thousand kernel weight and a disease screen are the most needed tests. Germination and thousand kernel weight are needed to calculate seeding rates. Disease screening is important to understand what potential issues you may have when planting and allow you to decide if you want to find new seed, adjust your seeding rate and/or apply a seed treatment.
Vigour tests are common seed tests. The vigour test is supposed to give an estimate of performance under stressful conditions. Germination tests are conducted under ideal conditions, which is rarely the situation in the field. Cold soils, salinity, seed to soil contact and moisture stress can all impact crop growth and development. A vigour test may provide an indication of performance when any of those stresses are present.
There are no fixed rules on when a new seed lot should be sourced if you are using your own seed. Certified seed must be at least 85% germination, as well as purity standards. Other than true loose smut in barley, there are no disease testing requirements either. There are guidelines for using seed infected with Fusarium species; generally, once total Fusarium spp. are greater than 10%, a seed treatment is recommended. If there is still somewhere in Saskatchewan where Fusarium graminearum has not been found, be careful to not introduce it with the seed.
The SaskSeed Guide and Varieties of Grain Crops has an article on page VR7 “Interpreting Seed Test Results” that could be useful as further resource. A new podcast from SaskWheat – Wheat Profit – has an episode on seed testing that provides good information.
- Accredited seed labs
- Wheat Profit Podcast
- Varieties of Grain Crops
- SaskSeed Guide
- Fusarium head blight
In next month’s e-newsletter, we will review seeding rates and dates. Stay tuned!
Code of Practice
You may have been hearing discussion lately around the Code of Practice being developed by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops (CRSC).
SaskBarley released its official position on this issue earlier this week. See full position
A reminder that CRSC is currently facilitating producer consultations on the topic, regarding the current Code of Practice draft. We strongly encourage all producers to provide feedback on this very important issue. You can do so by sending your feedback directly to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Another round of consultations is slated for the fall, after revisions have been made based on the current consultations. For more information visit: https://responsiblegrain.ca/contact/
SaskBarley Board elects new Chair, Vice-Chair
In January, our Board made some changes to its executive in preparation for three of six Directors completing two consecutive terms in January 2022.
Matt Enns, who joined the Board last year, replaced Jason Skotheim as the Board Chair.
Enns actively farms in a multi-generational grain operation alongside three other owner-operators near Rosthern, SK. He is also a co-founder of Maker’s Crafted Malts, Saskatchewan’s only craft malting facility.
Skotheim replaced Brent Johnson as Vice-Chair and will provide valuable mentorship during his final year on the board. Johnson, who has interests in feed barley, will also focus on lobbying for increased export and sales reporting in Canada throughout 2021 (following a related resolution at our AGM earlier this month).
Johnson and Allen Kuhlmann are also in their final year of consecutive terms on the Board. Keith Rueve, on his second term, and Glenn Wright, who joined the Board last year, complete the team of six.
Skotheim and Johnson served as Chair and Vice-Chair for six years. Their respective areas of expertise and interest were drivers for many of the positive developments SaskBarley has overseen in recent years.
It’s an election year for SaskBarley. Get involved
This fall we will have elections to fill three spots on our Board of Directors! If you are interested in helping shape the future of the barley industry, this is your opportunity to get involved.
Watch for more information on how to get involved in coming months. Nominations will open this summer.
Register now for our 2021 Annual General Meeting!
Registration is now open for the SaskBarley 2021 AGM, Tuesday, January 12 at 10:30AM.
The other CropSphere host groups will have the same AGMs that day and we have been working for months to make it as easy as possible for you to attend one or all of these meetings, as a registered producer or simply an observer.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
- 8:30 am to 9:30 am – Market outlook: canola, wheat, and barley
- 9:30 am to 10:30 am – Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission AGM
- 10:30 am to 11:15 am – Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission AGM
- 11:15 am to 12: 15 pm – Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission AGM
- 12:45 pm to 1:30 pm – Market outlook: flax and oats
- 1:30 pm to 2:15 pm – Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission AGM
- 2:15 pm to 3:00 pm – Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission AGM
- 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm – Market outlook: pulses
- 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm – Saskatchewan Pulse Growers AGM
Your input needed to help define “sustainability” in Canadian agriculture
The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops is currently leading the “Responsible Grain” project, to develop a voluntary Code of Practice for the production of cereals, oilseeds and special crops in Canada.
The science-based Code of Practice will aim to:
- enhance Canada’s reputation as a provider of high-quality food that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
- address grain buyer and customer priorities
- provide practical solutions that support farms in continual improvement.
- helps farmers respond to consumers and grain buyers who value sustainability
Farmer input is now being gathered for this project. If you are a grain farmer and would like to review the Code of Practice and provide input, visit: https://responsiblegrain.ca/contact/
Down to the core
An in-depth look at core breeding agreements and what they mean for farmers
Earlier this fall, we announced that we had signed another core breeding agreement (CBA), on behalf of the Canadian Barley Research Coalition, to invest $2.7 million over five years in the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre (CDC).
We decided it might be helpful to provide some background information about CBAs, including what they are, why we use them, and what they mean for farmers.
So we talked to Dr. Aaron Beattie, head barley breeder at the CDC, for more information.
How long have CBAs been a part of the agricultural research world?
Core funding programs started in the 1990s, after the inception of the Western Grains Research Federation (in 1981). The WGRF has since been facilitating CBAs for more than 25 years, including with us at the CDC.
In your world, what does CBA mean?
For us it’s core support on which we can run the basic aspects of our breeding program. CBAs are also a way to attract funders who may not have as much money to contribute, but realize when they do contribute, they will get a lot of bang for their buck.
What are the benefits of a core funding program?
Stability is a big one. As most people know, breeding is a long-term process. We think in long time frames and having funding for those periods of time allows us to plan and be quite confident we can get to wherever we need to be over the next five years.
It also helps us focus on our intended job – breeding! — and not spend our time chasing one-to-two-year funding agreements (even signing off on one of those can take a fair bit of time.)
CBAs allow us to hire staff. People are often on short term contracts in the research world, which doesn’t work well for breeding programs. The amount of training we put into getting staff up to speed is wasted effort if they leave after two to three years.
Core funding also tends to be more flexible. We let the funders know a general idea of how we intend to use the money but in a year like this one, when unexpected events throw a lot of our plans out the window, we’re able to use core funding to pay for unexpected expense, such as finding alternative testing sites for our breeding lines. Other funding arrangements are pretty strict – they wouldn’t have given us the ability to do that.
Finally, CBAs really allow us to be flexible in terms of our research and adapt to evolving market demands. Lots of research doesn’t get interesting until the second or third year, when you’ve done initial work and you want to explore what you’ve discovered. For example, the glycosidic-nitrile (GN) trait, which is relevant to the distilling industry [high levels of GN in malt is problematic for distillers] is something we hadn’t initially planned on working on, but we felt it had value so we brought it into the program. The craft brewing industry is growing in importance and CBA funding allows us to adapt our focus in the program to accommodate what we’re hearing from that industry.
What are some of the most notable things to come out of core funding agreements for barley with the CDC?
New varieties is really the number one thing our program is about. We are always aiming to develop varieties that yield better and stand really well. We’ve made some progress recently in that area but there’s still room for improvement.
On the disease side we are still focusing pretty hard on fusarium head blight, trying to push varieties into the moderately resistant category.
We’re also still trying to develop for various malt categories, such as a lower enzyme package for the craft industry, the low-lox trait and of course the low GN trait, which is of interest to distillers and the companies that sell to them. We are really trying to bring all these things together into one variety that would have really widespread usage and appeal.
Finally, we also have money devoted to feed barley, which is pretty straightforward — we are looking for big yields, good lodging resistance and shorter straw.
Meet our new Research & Extension Manager
Get to know Mitchell Japp and his vision for the new role
What is your vision for the new role at SaskBarley?
My focus in this role will be on connecting growers with research in barley. I’m looking forward to connecting with barley growers across Saskatchewan to talk with them about challenges and potential solutions. This will lead to development of new research and demonstration projects that can address some of those challenges and test the solutions. Working on these projects, and communications about these projects, along with research from others is what I’m most looking forward to.
What are the greatest opportunities you see for barley in the short and longer term and how can these be exploited/addressed through research and agronomy?
I think we are at or are very close to a significant transition in the barley industry. Varieties like AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland have been dominant for nearly 20 years. There are several newer varieties that are superior agronomically, in terms of yield, disease resistance, lodging resistance and malt profiles. Transitions like these have been rare in malt barley production on the prairies.
Right now there is an opportunity to capitalize on the transition to these newer, higher yielding varieties. These varieties have the potential to drive yields further with higher fertility and more intensive management than past varieties that may have lodged or resulted in too high of protein for malt. Compounding the potential of new varieties and advanced agronomics, there is a lot to look forward to in barley.
What are the greatest threats you see for barley in the short and longer term and how can we prepare for these through research and agronomy?
The long-term cycling of varieties has been a significant threat to barley profitability. We saw it with Harrington and are seeing the tail end of it (hopefully) with AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland. It’s not that these weren’t great varieties. They were, but innovation is critical in agriculture. Growers need to be able to continually improve production, because input costs increase and grain prices stay similar. Getting new and improved varieties in the hands of growers is a part of that solution.
Another threat facing barley is fusarium head blight (FHB). Although less susceptible than wheat or durum, there is very low tolerance for the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) in malt barley. Varietal resistance is part of the management, but there is room to improve agronomic management for FHB in barley. There are some research gaps in prevention as well as fungicide application and timing.
See our Fall 2020 newsletter
More good news
By Jason Skotheim, SaskBarley Chair
Happy Thanksgiving season everyone!
We continue to have lots to be thankful for at SaskBarley.
Things continued to look good as we finished our fiscal year.
As of early October, Peter Watts from the CMBTC called this year’s malting barley crop the best he had seen in six years, with high test weights, plump kernels, low levels of fusarium and chitting and protein levels in the 11-13.5% range.
As for yields, Statistics Canada estimates an average of 69.1 bushels/acre, which would make it the fifth highest on record.
Some more good news – this fall our team at SaskBarley is growing. Mitchell Japp, formerly the Provincial Cereals Crop Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, will officially join our team as Research and Extension Manager November 1. We could not have wished for a better addition. Learn more about him and his vision for the new role in our fall newsletter, which should be hitting your mailbox next month.
It’s also a good time of year for a reminder about malting barley specs for moisture and protein levels, so we have included an overview of that below. And if you would like even more information about this, we are offering a virtual version of Malt Academy Saskatchewan this year, on Friday November 13. This course is free for registered Saskatchewan barley producers and members of Saskatchewan’s barley industry. To learn more and register, visit http://saskbarleycommission.com/industry-news.
This month is Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. To celebrate, we worked with the team at Canadian Food Focus to create some content to showcase how wonderful barley is to consumers. See some of this content linked below.
Finally, we recently made the difficult decision to cancel CropSphere 2020. We will be holding our AGM virtually on January 12, 2021 – in conjunction with AGMs for the other CropSphere host groups. Details on how to register, vote, and submit resolutions will be available in November.
We will also have our fall newsletter and 2019/20 annual report available in coming weeks so watch for those.
Malting barley specs for moisture and protein levels
An overview of malting barley specs for moisture and protein levels
When it comes to malt barley specifications, we know that moisture and protein levels are important.
Malt buyers are increasingly looking for certain specs to meet the needs of the end-use markets they are selling to.
Here’s an overview for farmers of some considerations when it comes to moisture and protein levels.
Canadian malting barley is typically exported with a specification of maximum of 13.5% moisture content.
Excessive moisture can have a negative impact on malting barley quality during storage and transportation, particularly with respect to germination energy, which maltsters would like to exceed 95% for processing.
As a result, grain companies will likely require that farmer deliveries of malting barley not exceed 13.5% moisture this year.
Buyers are currently different looking for levels of protein for malting barley, depending on the brewing segment the barley is destined for.
Generally speaking, major brewers use supplements such as corn or rice in addition to barley malt. Because of this, they prefer higher protein content in the barley (11-13%), which provides the enzymes necessary to break down the starches into sugars. The higher protein in the barley also breaks down the free amino nitrogen (FAN), which feeds the yeast during fermentation.
In contrast the craft brewers generally want lower protein content (10-11.5%), as they get sufficient protein from the barley malt and don’t need the extra FAN (too much FAN can negatively impact yeast performance).
Producers with contracts, often with the domestic malting companies, will generally be given a range of desired protein, outside of which discounts may apply.
Malting barley grown without a contract is generally headed for the export market, in which case producers should target a range of 11-13.5% protein.
*The protein contents cited are on a 13.5% moisture basis.
Seven ways to cook with beer this fall
By: Andrea Buckett
Not just a summer sipper, beer has all the flavours you want in a fall drink, too—sweet and toasty malts, peppery hops, and yeasts that can impart a range of flavours from cooked banana to sourdough. Craft brewers often add autumnal flavours to the mix, too, such as pumpkin pie spice or honey. And what better to pair with a smooth brew on a crisp fall day than comfort foods made with beer?
A good news month
By Jason Skotheim, SaskBarley Chair
I hope you are all having a good month.
Overall, it’s good news to date for barley harvest and quality.
As of September 21, 72% of the Saskatchewan barley harvest was completed, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture. This is well ahead of the average for the past five years.
To date the quality of the malt barley harvested looks good, according to the CMBTC, with generally high test weights and plump kernels, low incidence of DON and limited chitting. The majority of protein samples to date have been in the 11-13.5% range and it looks like there will ample tonnage available for the domestic and the export market.
Since harvest is well on its way, we know many of you will start thinking of marketing. We are here to help. See article below from Chuck Penner on barley outlook in the current global environment.
Also below you will find an article on safely storing your grain this fall in order to prevent OTA (a potent mycotoxin that forms on wet grain). This is important, as we are all responsible for maintaining Canada’s reputation for producing top-quality crops – and we will ALL suffer the consequences of a failure to uphold these standards.
More good news this month – last week we officially announced a renewed agreement with the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre to invest $2.7 million in barley breeding over the next five years. (This funding comes from us, Alberta Barley and the Manitoba Crop Alliance.) The last round of producer funding provided to the CDC saw the registration of two new malting varieties, one feed variety and one hulless variety. In the next five years we expect another three varieties to be released.
Finally, we will have announcements in coming weeks about our fall/winter events for 2020. Hope we will “see” some of you there.
Barley Outlook Well Balanced (For Now)
By: Chuck Penner, LeftField Commodity Research
The global barley market has become a lot more complicated than it used to be, with geopolitical tensions causing more trade obstacles compared to what used to be a fairly humdrum marketplace. Already a while ago, Canada was banned from exporting barley to Saudi Arabia and now China has essentially stopped buying Australian barley, adding another wrinkle to the outlook. Now, it’s a matter of re-jigging trade routes to adapt to the new reality.
Within Canada, there’s been a flurry of information lately about barley supplies. StatsCan’s latest production estimate (two weeks after the first one) showed the 2020 barley crop at 10.25 mln tonnes, just marginally lower than last year but well above the 5-year average of 8.75 mln tonnes. That large crop would be partly offset by a second straight year of low old-crop carryover but supplies are still quite comfortable. This part of the outlook seems fairly straightforward, although there are lingering questions about the impact of flooding (earlier) and frost (later) in parts of the prairies.
Domestic barley demand, especially for malt, doesn’t vary much from year to year, but there can be a few changes for feed barley. In 2019/20, the marketing year just finished, StatsCan showed a large jump in feed use, the main category of barley consumption, although some of that increase is simply caused by StatsCan’s calculation methods and may not accurately reflect actual feed consumption.
One other reason that feed barley use increased last year was the sharp drop in corn imports from the US. Back in 2018/19, tight supplies of Canadian barley and high feed prices coupled with cheap US corn had boosted Canadian corn imports sharply. Those corn imports (at least in western Canada) dropped by more than half in 2019/20 because of cheaper Canadian barley and a weak Canadian dollar. For 2020/21, the loonie has strengthened but corn futures have also risen. That will limit corn imports and strengthen domestic demand for barley.
Outside our borders, the outlook gets a little foggier. Barley crops in major exporting countries this year have been extremely variable. Serious crop challenges in France and Argentina have reduced yields and cut into their export capabilities. In the Black Sea region, the Russian crop is up slightly from last year while Ukraine’s barley production is lower. At the other end of the spectrum, Australian barley production is estimated to be up 25% from last year. Even aside from geopolitical disruptions, these changes in barley production will cause shifts in export patterns.
The remaining piece of the outlook is export demand. The Saudi market remains relatively stable but Canada is shut out of that market anyway. A larger Australian crop is looking for a home, with some of that likely headed toward Saudi Arabia.
China is the largest question mark for Canadian exports. Chinese imports of other feedgrains have been very strong lately but barley imports seem to have lagged, even before the country shut out Australian barley. Barley imports could strengthen in the coming months as Chinese corn prices have continued to rise but barley would still need to compete with other feedgrains such as sorghum. Even if Chinese barley demand remains on the small side, the absence of Australia will open the door for more barley from Canada but also other origins, including the Black Sea and France.
In 2019/20, China wasn’t the only destination for Canadian barley. Volumes headed to Japan also rose considerably due to short supplies of Australian barley. Of course, that situation has changed in 2020/21 with a much bigger Australian crop and that barley will be competing aggressively in Japan, looking to regain lost market share. On balance, the gains Canada makes in China could be offset by a reduction in sales to Japan. We are getting some signals of strong barley exports to start the 2020/21 marketing year, which adds a positive tone.
The bottom line measure for the Canadian barley market is ending stocks. This year, the combination of large supplies once again, more normal domestic feed use and a slight increase in exports could raise 2020/21 ending stocks to 1.55 mln tonnes. That’s up considerably from 0.96 mln in 2019/20 but is only slightly higher than the 5-year average and is hardly considered heavy.
As the season evolves and some unknowns become known, especially in the export market, this outlook will undoubtedly need to be tweaked. But based on current information, a fairly stable price outlook is projected for 2020/21.
Reduce Mycotoxins to Keep it Clean
Help maintain Canada’s reputation for quality cereals and protect your investments by keeping Ochratoxin A (OTA) out of your stored grain.
By: Keep It Clean staff
OTA is a potent mycotoxin produced by Penicillium verrucosum, a naturally occurring soil fungus, that can form on stored grain. Unlike deoxynivalenol (also known as DON or vomitoxin) which is formed in the field, OTA forms exclusively in storage in wet grain or when water comes in contact with grain.
Prevention of even small pockets of OTA-contaminated grain during storage is the only way that it can be managed to protect health and prevent product recalls. Follow these Keep it Clean safe storage protocols to mitigate the risk:
- Keep bins and grain handling equipment clean, thoroughly cleaning dust and debris between grain lots.
- Ensure crops are harvested or dried to a safe level for storage.
- Cool the grain quickly to well below 10°C and keep it cool for as long as possible to minimize condensation in the bin. Even fine droplets of condensate can allow the fungus to grow.
Visit keepingitclean.ca/cereals/storage for further information on OTA and how it forms, along with visual examples of OTA formation at critical points of handling and storage.
By taking steps to prevent the formation of OTA in stored grain, you can protect your investments and help keep markets open for all.
Looking towards fall
By Jason Skotheim, SaskBarley Chair
I hope you are all having a good harvest season so far.
From all accounts, the barley crop in Saskatchewan this year looks good and Western Canada is poised to have a large grain crop overall.
At this point of year, it’s good to review best practices for drying and storing malting barley, especially as we know some areas had higher moisture this season. See the articles below for help with this, which includes information on how to dry and monitor your barley.
Last month, SaskBarley partnered with SaskCanola to host a booth and trial plots at the Ag in Motion 2020 show. Of course, when we originally planned this project we didn’t know it was going to be a virtual show. But in the end we found creative ways to connect with farmers virtually. For example, we created a video featuring farmer Katelyn Duncan and agronomist Dean Streisel discussing the benefits of including barley in your crop rotation in this video. Watch the video now.
As we head into the fall, we are busy planning events for barley farmers over the winter season. Of course, some of these will have to be adapted to the modern realities but we are trying to still deliver as much value as possible. Please stay tuned for announcements regarding CropSphere 2021, Grade School, Top Notch meetings and a Malt Academy this fall.
Stay safe and keep in touch.
Drying and storing malt barley this fall
Originally published by the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre
Western Canada is poised to harvest a large grain crop with much of the prairies having received sufficient moisture this growing season that will lead to trend or above trend yields. As harvest begins, please review these considerations for ensuring malting barley has the highest chances of selection as malt.
Drying and storage your malting barley
With some areas of the Prairies 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 storage and monitoring 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 try 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.
Glyphosate and malt barley
We asked Peter Watts from the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre for his advice on using glyphosate on barley crops this year. His main advice: don’t do it. Here’s why …
This year is becoming truly exceptional
By Jason Skotheim, SaskBarley Chair
In primary agriculture, no two years are the same but this year is becoming truly exceptional; or repressive might be a better descriptor.
I hope you are managing as best you can with the unknowns.
Like every other agriculture organization, we at SaskBarley have made some changes to accommodate special circumstances. One of these changes is creating this monthly e-newsletter, an alternate way to stay in touch with Saskatchewan barley farmers in the absence of all our events this year and provide you with relevant and timely information on an ongoing basis.
This month we have a couple timely topics for you, including harvest considerations for your barley and a look at the malting process in today’s high-tech. world.
In market news, you may have heard that China has recently imposed an 80% tariff on Australian malt barley. Australia has recently been a main provider of malt barley to China (last year exporting 2.5 million tonnes there last year) so this move will affect global markets.
Added to this, China has recently started asking for official guarantees that all imported crops are free of coronavirus, and some countries, such as Argentina, are starting to push back.
Even though some of these factors may result in higher demand for Canadian malt barley this year, volatile trading market are a risk to everyone.
SaskBarley will continue to monitor this situation and share relevant marketing information with you.
I also wanted to give you a quick update on barley market exports for 2019/20 to date:
- Canada has shipped 1.785 million (M) tonnes in the first 10 months of 2019/20, with expectations for a total of approx. 2 M tonnes total. While this will be lower than than the 2018/19 record year, it’s still high historically.
- Canadian barley exports to Japan have grown substantially in the past four years, rising from 44,000 tonnes in 2016/17 to a forecasted 550,000 tonnes in 2019/20.
- Canada shipped 35,000 tonnes of malting barley to Mexico this year, the first shipments of barley to our United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement partner in many years.
- Barley exports to China in 2019-20 are projected to reach 1.3 million tonnes, below the past two years but still a good export program.
As always, get in touch with us if you are looking for specific information about growing/selling barley in Saskatchewan.
Come Walk the Crops with Us: Harvest and the Malting Process for Barley
By Kaeley Kindrachuk, AT, B.App.Sc., Crops Extension Specialist, Outlook and Mitchell Japp, MSc, PAg, Provincial Specialist, Cereal Crops
In the Field: Harvest Considerations
Malt barley must be delivered to the maltster in a living state because it needs to germinate during the steeping process in the malt house. This makes malt barley a high-priority as harvest gets closer. At least 95 per cent of the kernels must germinate.
There are some limitations on management tools that can be used on malt barley crops. For example, pre-harvest glyphosate, which is registered for perennial weed control, is not used on malt barley crops. Nationwide, malt houses refuse to take barely that has been treated with glyphosate. Glyphosate can interfere with germination, so for the same reasons it should also not be applied to crops intended for seed.
Alternatives to pre-harvest glyphosate for controlling perennial weeds in malt barley include planting the crop in a field that is relatively free of weeds or treating the fall regrowth after the malt barley has been taken off the field and. When planting the malt barley, it is better to avoid fields with wild oat resistance because it is tough to separate.
It is essential to be prepared to harvest malt barley in a timely manner. Malt barley is often harvested earlier than other crops. It is important to watch the weather carefully because the quality can deteriorate rapidly in wet conditions. Chitting (pre-germination) can become an issue in wet conditions. Chitting may result in not meeting malt requirements, but not necessarily. If the crop does become chitted, work closely with the buyer to move it early in fall because the germination energy will decline more rapidly than sound barley.
Malt barley can be harvested at 16 per cent or even a little higher, then dried using aeration. Harvesting at higher moisture content may be more beneficial than waiting and increasing the chance of getting rain. If using a grain dryer, be careful about the temperature used (maximum recommended is 45 C air temp for malt). Barley is considered safe for storage in Canada at 13.5 per cent or lower.
Also, having higher moisture content while harvesting reduces or eliminates issues with peeling and cracking. Peeling and cracking become more problematic in hot, dry harvest conditions, when the grain is very dry. Peeling and/or cracking needs to be less than five per cent. If peeled, it will take on moisture at a different rate and germination will be uneven. If cracked, it will probably not germinate. It is important to adjust the combine as the relative humidity and temperature changes throughout the day.
There are pros and cons for both swathing or straight cutting. When swathing, look for a window where you will have enough days of drying to be able to combine it. Drying in swaths can even out moisture levels in the kernels. Leaving the crop standing for straight cutting is effective when the crop is uniform and reduces costs compared to swathing and weather-related risks compared to swathing.
While monitoring grain condition in storage and marketing are essential after the grain is in the bin, reviewing the year and lessons learned is valuable too. Comparing notes on what happened in fields that did and didn’t make malt may provide indication on what can be done better next year to increase the likelihood of getting selected for malt. Take a look at the grade and notes received on uniformity, germination and plump. Were there differences? Check out the notes from our spring Crop Walk on how these can be manipulated for higher yielding, better quality malt barley. Doing trials on your own farm can help determine what works best under your farming management.
In the Malt House: The Malting Process
Malting, the process of using heat and water to initiate germination for brewing and distilling, is an age old business, however, it is more high tech now than ever –maltsters can control quality and timeframes really closely. There are a lot of steps along the way to ensure a quality product.
The first quality factor that maltsters look for is germination, as well as the plump and the peeled and cracked kernels. They also look for protein content at 12.5 per cent or lower because of how it malts and brews. Uniformity is important because you want things to happen evenly throughout the malting process. If there are vastly different thins and plumps, then hydration will happen at a different rate and the maltster will have difficulty controlling when to finish the germination stage.
The barley kernel uses the complex starch from the endosperm to start growing its shoot out of the ground. It is using that energy and as it uses it, it changes from a complex starch into a simple sugar that brewer’s or distiller’s yeast can use. That is the reason for malting, to turn complex starches into simple sugars, so the brew houses’ yeast can use it. If the kernel does not germinate, then none of the modifications will happen. Without the germination process, the kernel becomes a WUG (Whole Unmodified Grain). This grain has had no modifications, so no enzymes and no biochemistry that is needing to happen has initiated.
At a boutique malt house like Maker’s Malt, everything stays in the steeping vessel for the whole malting process. During the steeping, the kernels start to chit, which mean the rootlets start to emerge from the kernel within the first 24-48 hours. The kernels start hydrating from the 13.5 per cent moisture content barley is stored at to 45 per cent. The water needs to go through the whole endosperm. If the whole thing is not hydrated, the kernel becomes a PUG (Partial Unmodified Grain) which has been modified until the point where hydration didn’t quite make it from the chitting end to the distal end of the kernel.
The whole machine consists of the steeping tank, a big blower, a big furnace, a chiller loop and a misting chamber. These attachments allow for total control over the whole environment – temperature, humidity and air flow control.
Finally, kilning happens, which means to dry the grain down to 5% and add flavor and colour based on the type of product they are trying to make and it is where they can be creative. Different flavors of malt are used in different types of beer production, such as chocolate or roasted malt. However, the base for essentially all beer is a basic pale malt.
For more information on the malting process, or growing malt barley:
- Visit the Saskatchewan Agriculture website
- Contact your nearest Crops Extension Specialist or the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.