13 October 2017

RMI Analytics Canadian Crop Tour 2017

On August 28th and 29th RMI Analytics conducted a crop tour of commercial barley fields and malting facilities in Central Alberta in Western Canada.

On the first day the group heard the whole region had been very dry in 2017. The barley harvest began in the region of Central Alberta around Calgary about two weeks ahead of normal due to the dryness, which had sapped some yield potential. But in the areas observed at the beginning of day one yields were heard between 90-120bu/ac with excellent screenings of above 93 percent. Other areas visited during the tour returned similar good yields with consistently impressive quality.

Owing to the dry season disease pressure was very low this year, especially from fusarium, and resulting DON (vomitoxin), compared to the 2016 crop. But experts told problems with fusarium were increasing in Canada and it would be an ongoing disease issue which would need to be managed in coming years. One method used by farmers to reduce pressure from mycotoxins is freezing silo bins, a practice which was heard to be common place in Canada. Another trend observed was continually declining acres with. Declining acres are a serious problem for availability of quality malting barley for malt production with other crops such as wheat, lentils, beans and canola competing for barley acres. Crop tour participants took some solace in the excellent yields of new varieties, such as Syngenta Synergy, but they cautioned in a poor year declining acres could lead to shortages of quality barley and the industry needed to make barley growing more attractive to farmers.

One method discussed to improve the barley supply was using variable rate fertilizer application, reducing costs and improving overall crop conditions, as well as drone technology. During a visit to the Davidson Farm near Red Deer the group saw a demonstration of fixed wing drone technology. The drone had been used to map the fields on the farm and generate 3-D maps of the terrain and the fertility of the fields.

Later on the second day the group visited Rahr Malting’s facility at Alix, Alberta where the majority of the fields which had so far been visited would be malted, chiefly for export to the USA or into Asian markets. The 140,000MT facility was established in 1993. Batch size at the plant is 450MT while there is 10,000MT of on-site storage capacity for finished malt. In total the facility requires 90 trucks of malting barley per-week to keep up with production.

On the last two farm visits advanced grain storage technology and state-of-the-art dryer technology was displayed for the group. During the final visit the participants saw a trial of PGR (growth regulators) at the Crossfield site, 30 minutes from Calgary. In Canada the use of PGR’s has been limited and chemical manufacturers are still working to gain industry acceptance. In the field the tour was told some farmers had reported a ten percent boost in yield compared to not using PGR’s with the trial inspected being a field of Copeland feed barley.

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