Quality of western Canadian malting barley 2015

Annual Harvest Survey

Sampling and survey methodology

The 2015 malting barley survey was based on 62 varietal composites, representing a total of 1,112,000 tonnes of barley selected for domestic malt processing or for export as malting barley by several grain handling and malting companies: Cargill Inc, Canada Malting Co. Ltd., Rahr Malting Co., Richardson International, Viterra Inc., Malteurop North America Inc. The tonnage included in this survey represents only a portion of the total volume of malting barley selected in Western Canada, and does not necessarily reflect the actual amounts selected. Samples were received from the beginning of harvest until the 5th of November, 2015. All results presented in this report represent weighted averages based on tonnage of composite samples received and analyzed.

Malting conditions and methodologies  

Initial malting trials indicated that sufficient steep out moisture levels were achieved using two wet steep cycles. Despite slightly higher protein levels, kernels took up water easily with total wet steep time of 16 hours, similar to steep time in 2014. All analytical methods used in this survey to assess the barley, malt and wort quality are listed in the Methods.

Malting conditions used with Phoenix Micromalting System in 2015
Steeping 8 h wet steep, 16 h air rest, 8 h wet steep, 12 h air rest @ 13°C
Germination 96 h @ 15°C
Kilning 12h @ 60°C,  6h @ 65°C,  2h @ 75°C,  4h @ 85°C

Malting quality in 2015 - Highlights 

This year’s harvest resulted in malts with good quality:

  • The quality of the 2015 barley crop was challenged by very dry conditions in spring and early summer and above average precipitation in August and September.
  • 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 and higher than the long term average values.
  • Barley germination was adequate; however, some water sensitivity was present.
  • RVA testing 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 higher than average levels of diastatic enzymes.
  • Wort was characterized by very low levels of β-glucans, but higher than average levels of soluble proteins, free amino nitrogen (FAN), 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.

Quality of barley selected for malting in 2015: general trends and annual statistics  

Malting barley selected in 2015 was of average quality overall. The levels of barley proteins in 2015 (12.4%) were higher than in 2014 (11.7%) and higher than the 10-year average (11.7%). Germination energy of barley samples determined during the annual survey was adequate for malting; however moderate water sensitivity was present in some samples. This year’s barley had very high average 1000 kernel weight (45.7 g), higher than in 2014 (44.2 g) and higher than the 10-year average (43.2 g).  Kernel plumpness, a measure of kernels remaining on the 6/64” slotted screen, averaged 94.5% which is considerably higher than the 10-year average (91.2%). The average kernel diameter and kernel weight were also determined using the Single Kernel Characterization System. The results indicated differences among barley varieties with Bentley, CDC Meredith, and AAC Synergy having bigger and heavier kernels than other varieties.

Average protein content in barley selected for malting from 2005-2015

The levels of barley proteins in 2015 (12.4%) were higher than in 2014 (11.7%) and higher than the 10-year average (11.7%).

Graph of protein content for malting barley, 2005-15. Details below.

Details
Average protein content in barley selected for malting from 2005-2015
Years 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 10-year average
Protein 11.7 11.9 12.3 11.7 11.2 11.6 11.4 11.9 11.1 11.7 12.4 11.7

Average thousand kernel weights of barley selected for malting from 2005-2015

This year’s barley had very high average 1000 kernel weight (45.7 grams), higher than in 2014 (44.2 grams) and higher than the 10-year average (43.2 grams)

Graph of 1000 kernel weight for malting barley, 2005-15. Details below.

Details
Average 1000 kernel weight of barley selected for malting from 2005-2015
Years 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 10-year average
Kernel weight 43.1 41.7 39 44.6 44.3 41.7 44.2 41.5 48.2 44.2 45.7 43.2

Average plumpness of barley selected for malting from 2005-2015

Kernel plumpness, a measure of kernels remaining on the 6/64” slotted screen, averaged 94.5% which is considerably higher than the 10-year average (91.2%)

Graph of kernel plumpness % over 6/64 sieve for malting barley, 2005-15. Details below.

Details
Average plumpness of barley selected for malting from 2005-2015
Years 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 10-year average
Plumpness 90.9 89.5 84 93.8 94.1 92.1 93.2 88.4 94.7 93.3 94.5 91.2

Average kernel diameter and kernal weight of barley varieties selected for malting in 2015

The average kernel diameter and kernel weight were also determined using the Single Kernel Characterization System. The results indicated differences among barley varieties with Bentley, CDC Meredith, and AAC Synergy having bigger and heavier kernels than other varieties.

Graph of average kernel diameter of 7 barley varieties, 2015. Details below.

Graph of average kernel weight of 7 barley varieties, 2015. Details below.

Details
Average kernel diameter of barley varieties selected for malting
Variety Kernel weight (mg) Kernel diameter (mm)
Bentley 55.73 2.87
CDC Copeland 49.81 2.6
CDC Kindersley 48.78 2.67
CDC Meredith 51.3 2.56
AC Metcalfe 46.77 2.52
Newdale 47.74 2.43
AAC Synergy 52.55 2.72

Average germination energy of barley selected for malting from 2005-2015

Germination energy of barley samples determined during the annual survey was adequate for malting; however moderate water sensitivity was present in some samples.

Graph of average germination of barley varieties, 2015. Details below.

Details
Average germination of barley selected for malting from 2005-2015
Years 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 10-year average
Germination 97 99 97 99 99 96 99 98 98 96 97 98

RVA results for barley selected for malting in 2013, 2014, and 2015

Graph of RVA results in AB, SK, MB for malting barley, 2015. Description below.

The boxes in the graph show the range of RVA values in the middle 50% of the analyzed samples; the horizontal line and the dot inside the box indicate the median and mean, respectively. The short horizontal lines outside of the box mark the minimum and maximum values.

Pre-germination is the premature sprouting of grain while still in the ear as a consequence of prolonged spells of wet weather when mature grain remains uncut in the field; this event is called ‘pre-harvest sprouting’. One of the enzymes produced very early during germination is α-amylase. Since the level of α-amylase in sound grain is very low compared to its level in the germinating grain, the content of α-amylase in grain can be used as a marker of germination. Rapid visco analysis (RVA) indirectly estimates the amount of α-amylase in barley by measuring the viscosity of ground barley in water.

RVA is used by barley selectors to identify sound, moderately and strongly pre-germinated barley, and to manage their supply accordingly. Samples with final viscosity values >120 (RVU) are considered sound and the probability that they will retain germination energy (GE) after storage is very high. Samples with RVA values 50-120 (RVU) are moderately pre-germinated, whereas samples with RVA values >50 (RVU) are substantially pre-germinated and the probability that they will lose GE during storage is high. They should be malted as soon as possible. To predict safe storage time more accurately, not only the RVA values, but also the storage conditions (T and RH) and the initial moisture content of the grain have to be taken into account.

Among the samples tested in 2015 survey only a few showed high RVA values (>120 RVU). This year’s RVA results have reflected wet harvest conditions, especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan, resulting in high incidence of substantial pre-germination (<50 RVU), similar to 2014, but dramatically different from dry harvest conditions in 2013. The RVA results stress the need for identification of barley with low RVU that should be malted promptly. As indicated in the next sections of this report, pre-germinated barley malted soon after harvest can produce good quality malt.