Canada: Crop harvest coming to an end with variable quality results
The crop harvest in Western Canada is finally coming to an end, with about 5% of the barley crop still in the fields as of November 5th, the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre reported on November 12.
It has been one of the most challenging harvests in recent memory for many farmers. The quality of the barley is highly variable across the prairies, depending on the date it was harvested. There is no doubt a lot of malting barley will now go to feed due to the wet, cold conditions through September and October, however a number of regions achieved surprisingly better than expected yields. When harvest is complete, Western Canada will have produced between 9.5-10 million tonnes of barley.
Many parts of the prairies received well above average precipitation between August and October, with areas in south eastern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba receiving 2-3 times as much rainfall after August 1st than they would in an average growing season. In central and northern Alberta, as well as parts of Saskatchewan, temperatures remained well below normal during the growing season, delaying the harvest into late September and October. This, coupled with persistent rain, generated numerous quality challenges including pre-harvest sprouting, mildew and staining among the major degrading factors. One positive from this years crop was the limited incidence of fusarium head blight and resulting vomitoxin, with DON levels well within acceptable tolerances.
Fortunately some areas of the prairies were able to harvest their barley crops prior to most damaging weather, which helped ensure adequate supplies of good quality barley for both the domestic malt industry and export markets this year. Even some of the later harvested barley will meet the specifications required by maltsters, although the industry has had to loosen their tolerances for certain criteria this year such as pre-harvest sprouting.
Data compiled by the Canadian Grain Commission from provincial crop insurance figures show CDC Copeland remained the top seeded variety at 44.0% of area seeded to malting barley varieties in W. Canada, while area seeded to AC Metcalfe continued to drop this year falling below 24%. At 19.2%, AAC Synergy experienced a surprising large jump in seeded area, while the new varieties AAC Connect and CDC Bow represented 2.1% and 2.0% of seeded area respectively, putting them on track for commercial scale production in 2020.
One of the main characteristics of the 2019 malting barley crop is the variability in quality, with wide standard deviations in almost all quality categories. In general, protein levels are reported lower this year compared with 2018 levels, with the exception of some regions such as southern Alberta, a by-product in part of below average seasonal temperatures during the growing season in many areas as well as very strong yields. Based on early reports from selectors, median protein levels for CDC Copeland are around 11% (11.6% last year), with AC Metcalfe levels around 11.8% compared with 12.4% last year.
Pre-harvest sprouting has been a widespread issue this year, leading to high chit counts with selectors allowing for higher tolerance levels than usual. Germination energy has been strong, with a few exceptions, and water sensitivity has been low. Test weight, thousand kernel weight and plump kernels are all down from the very strong 2018 levels, as are RVA levels. In terms of malt quality, early results show very good extract levels from the 2019 malting barley crop.
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