Quality of western Canadian malting barley 2015

Summary

Total barley production in Western Canada in 2015 is estimated at 7,786,000 tonnes, which represents an increase of about 16% compared with 2014. The larger crop is attributed to a 12% increase in seeded acres in 2015 compared with 2014.

Seeding started relatively early this year with dry and warm conditions in early spring.  The growing season was characterized by average to above average mean temperatures and below average precipitation through late July, particularly in Alberta and western Saskatchewan. However, excess precipitation in August and September resulted in sprouting and weather damage, downgrading large portions of the crop and limiting the quantity of barley selectable for malting purposes.

The 2015 barley harvest survey conducted by the Grain Research Laboratory and the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre was based on composites of individual varieties representing 1,112,000 tonnes of barley selected in Western Canada for malting by grain handling and malting companies.

Overall, malting barley selected in 2015 was of average quality. Thousand kernel weights and kernel plumpness levels were higher than the long term averages. Protein levels in barley grain were higher than levels in 2014. Barley germination was adequate; however, some water sensitivity was present. RVA (rapid visco analysis) indicated high incidence of pre-harvest sprouting.

Malt made from 2015 barley resulted in extract levels very close to the long term average values and with above average levels of enzyme activities. Wort was characterized by very low levels of β-glucans, but higher than average levels of soluble proteins, FAN (free amino nitrogen), and colour. Production of good quality malt from the 2015 barley crop may pose some challenges but is achievable through discerning barley selection and timely and skillful processing.