16 September 2016

RMI Analytics malting barley crop tour in Canada

On August 15 and 16, RMI Analytics conducted a malting barley crop tour in South Central Saskatchewan visiting commercial fields, trial plots, grain elevators and silos near Saskatoon. During the tour the barley harvest was just starting but the weather was holding up progress with heavy showers occurring on a daily basis. Crops that were planted early in the seeding period are more advanced and will be harvested in the coming days, but some later seeded barley is still up to three weeks away from harvest.

Expectations are of a total Canadian barley crop of 9.5m MT with yields of 3.7-4.3MT/Ha (typical yields 3.2MT/Ha). The selection rate for malt in Canada is around 65% but this level is rising year on year with farmers focused on working to achieve malt quality. During the tour local industry experts and farmers told participants around July 4th heavy rain came to the region near Saskatoon with more than 150mm of rain reported. Since these heavy falls rain has continued to fall every couple of days. Touring the area around Saskatoon standing water was seen in fields with the abundant small lakes common in the region very full. During the days leading up to the tour and during the tour heavy rain was seen on four out of five days.

Crop Development Centre – University of Saskatchewan

On the first day the tour visited the University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Centre near Saskatoon, the birthplace of staple Canadian malting barley varieties such as Copeland. Here tour participants saw plots of the most popular Canadian malting barley varieties such as Copeland and Metcalfe which together make up about 70% of Canadian malting barley acres. Plant breeders at the CDC told the tour about some of their current research projects such a hull-less barley, as well as their focus on DON resistance in plant lines and on whether continuing to invest in feed barley research makes sense as malting varieties yields start to match feed. The tour also heard the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC) has shipped batches of new varieties Kindersley and Syngenta Synergy to China for pilot malting and brewing to encourage industrial users there to adopt the new varieties. Getting acceptance from the malting and brewing industry is the biggest hurdle with new varieties, say plant breeders, with farmer normally much more willing to plant a new variety than brewers/maltsters are to switch into using a new barley variety.

En-route to the next scheduled stop at the Canada Malting Company grain elevator in Watrous the tour visited the G3 silo at Colonsay, a 41,000MT facility which can load 134 car trains very quickly with staff at the plant even trained in driving trains.

In Watrous the tour saw the local grain elevator and took a look at the efforts of the team there to keep DON levels a low a possible with their basement lab giving them the chance to keep a check on toxin levels. The average for the area is .3 to. 4ppm with barley tested three times before it hits the malthouse. The tour heard so far in the early harvest in Manitoba levels of up to 7ppm have been recorded in barley, which would lead to instant rejection for malting (and most feed) use.

So far this year in Saskatchewan, despite the excess moisture, levels of DON (vomitoxin) have been quite low. During visits to commercial fields on the Macacres Farm near Watrous variety Newdale was seen on 295 acres (119Ha) and Syngenta Synergy on 148acres (60Ha). On this farm they follow a three year rotation with a cereal crop followed by a pulse or flax, then canola and back to a cereal crop. Seeding occurred here on May 3 into canola stubble and over the season 350mm of rain has fallen with expectations of yields around 4.8MT/Ha (4.3MT/Ha average) and proteins of between 12-13%. Swathing was expected to occur the day after the tour visited and if warmth comes during the week grain was expected to have been combined by the end of the weekend.

The next set of fields on Headacre Farms was sown with Syngenta Synergy with some lodging seen during to persistent heavy rains (325mm since seeding). Hopes are still that most of the barley will be straight cut (where it isn’t green still) with the areas that are badly lodged to be swathed later this week. Expectations are for 4.3MT/Ha yields.

The final commercial field seen on day one was of Metcalfe sown on May 7 into sandy loam with 300mm of rain coming during the season leading to good crop development on land which normally struggles to deliver a good crop. Previously soybeans and peas were sown on the section we saw but they yielded under 15MT on 35 acres. Expectations here are of a yield of 4.8MT/Ha.

On the second day of the tour participants visited Syngenta trials in Waldheim, about 40 minutes North of Saskatoon. Here a number of trials of new varieties were seen including new varieties including some specifically targeted to the emerging US craft distilling movement. For distilling a low/no GN barley called Faring was seen with very high FAN, which is of interest to the distilling industry. Regarding the development of Synergy the team from Syngenta said they expected about 150,000 acres of Synergy would be planted this year (rising to 300,000Ha in 2017) and as yet there are no problems with seed supply. Heading to commercial fields the tour participants heard how farmers are increasingly favoring silo bags over silos as they have found barley cools faster and retains its germination energy better. A late field (seeded June 7) of Copeland was seen on a seed production farm with significant lodging evident thanks to heavy rain.

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