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This year’s barley harvest is finally in the bin, with quality results looking good for our growing regions. Read on to learn more about Colorado barley, Maryland and Delaware barley, and our new varieties, or click here to see a video summary by Dale West, CEO of Proximity Malt.
Photos courtesy of Zach Gaines, CO barley fields July & August 2023
Harvest was completed earlier than last year, but right in line with the five year average. In the San Luis Valley and Uncompahgre Valley, producers had optimal conditions this year for plant establishment and vegetative growth. Cooler temperatures and significantly less wind pressure were the predominant factors enabling this year’s top end yield environment. While temperatures soared for the final month of grain fill, steady run-off from the excellent snow pack provided optimal water resources. This allowed producers to stay ahead of heat stress.
According to statistics from the USDA, the Colorado barley crop finished the season with about 75% of the crop rated in excellent/good category. A timely harvest and optimal growing conditions resulted in a bumper crop. Yields exceeding 200 bushels/acre have been recorded by some Proximity producers! Barley that has been delivered through the end of October has shown excellent quality, averaging 51.1 lb/bu test weight, 11.3% protein and 93.6% plump.
In our quest to provide more sustainable barley options to our growers, we were excited to launch a new malting barley variety this season. Leandra is a spring two-row malting variety developed by Breun in Germany. Based on results from last season’s agronomic trials performed in collaboration with Colorado State University, and several on farm production fields, Leandra showed a step forward in yield potential for Colorado producers.
This season Proximity began contracting Leandra, a new spring barley variety to Colorado. Producers reported that it lived up to expectations. One grower in the San Luis valley commented that “Leandra was a great new variety this season. It’s a shorter line that has a lot of yield potential. I was also able to try it on small acres last season and it seemed to have some improved dryland tolerance compared to some other lines I’ve grown.” Another grower in the same valley liked Leandra as well, and would like to continue to grow it: “Leandra wants to grow. It comes up fast after planting and tillers well. It also matures and ripens faster than previous varieties we’ve planted, which is a savings of both water and time.”
Photo courtesy of Zach Gaines, MD barley harvest, June 2023.
In Maryland and Delaware (80% of Proximity barley acres), producers had optimal weather in early 2023 to establish healthy barley stands with high tiller counts. There was a three-week period with little rainfall. This reduced overall plant height, but did not impact end of season yield. An unseasonably warm winter brought higher than normal pressure from aphids. This increased the risk of barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) in both barley and wheat crops. The new Virginia Tech variety, Avalon, showed excellent tolerance to the virus. Harvest started in late May in NC and VA, and our first field of barley in MD/DE was harvested in early June. 90% of our barley was harvested by June 20th – before the heavy rains started in the region. This optimal harvest time frame avoided some of the downgrading in quality that occurred in the winter wheat crop.
Like the Mountain West season, 2023 weather provided the necessary ingredients for a bumper crop, with yields averaging 110 bushels/acre. The highest ever individual yield was recorded this season in southern Maryland – averaging 140 bushels/acre over 65 acres. Yields as high as 160 bushels/acre were recorded by the combine in some areas of this field. Overall barley quality was very good this season, with Avalon performing the best overall.
|Test Weight (lbs/bu)||49.9||48.1||46.5|
Producers across the entire Mid-Atlantic region had an opportunity to grow Avalon for the first time this season, and were not disappointed. Avalon was selected by Proximity due to its excellent test weight and Mid-Atlantic adaptation. Yield performance of Avalon has been similar to Flavia and slightly better than Violetta in university testing over the past three seasons, and this translated to producer fields.
One of our growers in Central Maryland really liked Avalon : “It’s a really nice barley. It was a lot healthier than Flavia coming out of winter and I was surprised at how quickly it established a thick stand. Quality and Test Weight were the best I’ve seen from a malting barley on my farm.”
And from southern Maryland, we had more positive comments on the variety: “I feel like the quality of Avalon was superior to Flavia, and the yield on my farm this season was phenomenal for a two-row barley. It’s a great new variety that I hope you keep offering, because it will help farms keep small grains in their rotation.”
According to the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA), a trade group representing the major users of malting barley in the United States, the United States recorded an estimated production up 6% over the harvest volumes of last year, and harvested acres at the highest point since 2018. Average yield was up, with record yields recorded in California, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania.
National yields were higher than last year, averaging 72.4 bushels/acre. Colorado was one of the highest yielding states at 131 bushels/acre, followed by Idaho and Wyoming. Delaware and Maryland were following, at 95 and 96 bu/acre, respectively. Barley stocks on September 30, 20233 are up 9% higher than this time last year, which puts the US in a more comfortable supply situation.
Source: Small Grains 2023 Summary (September 2023), USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service
Note that the drought has moved away from most of the barley growing areas. The USDA is reporting that less than 1/3 of all barley acres are located in drought-stricken areas.
For the 2023 harvest, total Canadian barley production is estimated to be 7.84 million tons by Statistics Canada, which is 21% lower than last year.
While the drop in production in Canada is not good news, note that only about 10% of the total crop goes into malting channels. The malting industry should be able to source enough quality barley to meet malting demand. Yield dropped this year due to lingering drought conditions across the Canadian prairies.
The total harvest for small grains in England and Scotland this year was delayed by heavy rains, and completed by October. Winter barley yields were estimated to be at five-year averages. Spring barley yields were forecasted to be slightly below the five-year averages. Quality is reported as in line with an average crop.
There has been a slow start to the winter planting season due to heavy rain. Farmers are tilling more this year to get the grain planted than last year due to sodden soils.
The total barley harvest for the EU-14 members is down about 9% compared to last year. Several countries reported lower acreage planted to spring varieties. The weather during the growing season contributed to some stress levels and reduced yields. With fair to average quality reported, the markets for malting barley are slightly down. Maltsters are considering where they will end the year with current stocks and what will be needed for 2024.
Winter barley plantings in France have been delayed due to wet weather. Most of the barley has been sown in the biggest growing regions, so the acreage should be sufficient for the next crop year.