October 2020

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.

Moisture 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.

Protein levels*

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.

Target malting barley parameters

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?

Read article

September 2020

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.

August 2020

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.

Jason Skotheim
SaskBarley Chair

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 …

Watch video


July 2020

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.