Growing consistent malting barley key for contract growers

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If you want your barley selected for malting, step one is to seed it first, says Bill Chapman, a crop business development consultant with Alberta Agriculture’s Crop Business and Development Centre in Barrhead.

Speaking to a joint meeting of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission and the Alberta Barley Commission in Lacombe last month, Chapman told producers that growing malt barley under contract was certainly feasible, and the key to getting contracts with the large malting companies is to grow a consistent product.

“I’d also like to make some suggestions. Number one is direct seeding, seeding first,” he said. “I want you to seed malt barley before you seed your canola. If you want to grow malt, get it off early in August. That’s the best successful practice you can do.”

Chapman said another key to growing malt barley was to harvest it early.

“I’m talking go in there at 18 to 20 per cent moisture, straight cut it, dry it and aerate it. Get it off before you get any staining or discolouration. And why? Because last year, you could have signed a contract for $6.75 a bushel,” he said.

Chapman recommends seeding an inch deep in moist soil, keeping high seeding rates, and straight combining. “I’m a big fan of seeding 26 to 28 plants per square foot if you’re going out in dry areas.”

The Canadian Malt Barley Technical Centre recommends several varieties of barley for producers. Recommended varieties include AC Metcalfe, CDC Copeland and CDC Kendall. Chapman says AC Metcalfe, CDC Select and CDC Copeland are very consistent in their yields across the different areas of the province.

“Number one tip of the day, while I’m on the soapbox, is to get your hot little hands on some CDC Select. It might be worth your while,” said Chapman. He cautions that Harrington, a popular variety for many years, does not do as well in areas of high fertility and high rainfall.

Chapman suggests monitoring for diseases, and keeping them low as maintaining kernel plumpness is key. He advises not to use dessicants.

Maltsters are also looking for crops that are fully mature, free from disease and frost damage, not weathered or stained and with less than 5 per cent peeled and broken kernels. The ideal plant has a low to moderate protein content and plump kernels of a uniform size. Insecticides are recommended if necessary. Combine settings should also be checked to reduce peeling.

Many of the better growers are swathing in front of the combine, said Chapman. “Cut it early in at least 18 to 20 per cent moisture. Aerate and dry it and bring the temperature down. Make sure it’s free from frost. Keep your protein down, moisture below 13.5.”

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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