Producers of all kinds attended the 2015 Central New York Malting Barley Roundtable, where dairy farmers, crop growers, hops producers and curious land owners gathered, seeking answers on whether or not the malting barley crop could be profitable for them.
The meeting was led by CNY CCE Regional Field Crop Specialist Kevin Ganoe, who discussed both 2- and 6-rowed barley, spring and winter varieties, diseases, soil conditions impacting a successful crop, expectations from malt houses and breweries and marketing prospects.
“We know there are some differences in yield between spring and winter varieties,” said Ganoe. “Higher yield is one thing.”
Winter barley generally yields 70-90 bu/acre, while spring varieties typically produce 40-70 bu/acre.
Winter varieties should be planted at 2-2.5 bu/acre in the fall, during the second half of September — but before October, as October planting have a higher percentage of winter kill.
Winter varieties usually require 10-20 lb./acre of nitrogen and 10-25 lb./acre of P2 05 in the furrow at planting.
Spring varieties should be planted as early as possible. Recommended planting is 2 bu/acre, with 10-50 lb./acre of nitrogen. Note that malting barley is likely to respond to 20 lb./acre of sulfur.
Malting barley does not like “wet feet” and should be grown in well-drained soil, drilled, at 1-1.5 inches deep. “I’d rather you plant too deep than too shallow,” Ganoe advised.
Differences in the 2-rowed and 6-rowed varieties were also discussed.
“One of the things with 2-rowed, is that the thought is you tend to get larger, plumper kernels,” remarked Ganoe. “The 6-rowed tend to have smaller kernels.”
One attendee stated that 2-rowed varieties also dry more quickly than 6-rowed varieties, which tend to have smaller and tightly headed kernels.
“For malting,” Ganoe said, “we want the enzymes produced in the seed. You’re not looking for a higher level of protein in malting barley and one of the thoughts is that 6-rowed will tend to be higher in protein and 2-rowed will tend to be lower in protein.”
And although the market seems to prefer 2-rowed varieties, Ganoe pointed out that through breeding and selection, these differences are not quite what they were in the past. He also said that 6-rowed varieties tend to be more of a survivor than 2-rowed. “They’re going to survive the environment better, drought conditions, diseases; they’re better agronomically than 2-rowed. Two-rowed can be a little more difficult to grow.”
Ganoe said the market may traditionally desire the 2-rowed barley, but 6-rowed barley can also make great beer and showed that in variety testing quality scores are similar.
Soil is an important consideration in growing this crop. Differences in soil will affect the taste of the malt, quality and yield of the crop. Optimal pH for barley is 6.3-7.0. Manganese and zinc also need to be at correct levels. Note that you may need a year to correct soil deficiencies before planting.
According to regional test plots, Regional Agronomist Bill Verbeten recommends 6-rowed Quest and 2-rowed Conlon as best choices for the northeast spring varieties, while Charles, KWS Scala and Sytepee look like best choices for winter varieties.
Fusarium head blight continues to be the single most critical disease for the crop in New York State and is considered to be endemic in the state. Fields infected should always be harvested last as harvesting equipment will become contaminated, which in turn will contaminate other grain harvested afterwards.
Malt houses will not purchase grain that tests at more than a mere trace or 1 part per million of Fusarium. Toxins can currently be measured in parts per billion.
Spores are ejected into air currents, traveling and causing a “neighborhood effect”.
Ganoe cautions folks to be careful about planting malting barley after other crops that may be harboring the spores. Rotations are important.
Using fungicides is helpful, however due to the narrow window of opportunity of application, it is imperative to pay close attention to emerging heads. Always follow directions on the label.
Past experience shows about a 40-45 percent reduction in toxins by using fungicide spray. Another 40 percent reduction in risk is possible by using resistant seed.
Harvesting should be done as soon as possible to preserve quality, taking care not to damage the kernels. Cleaning the grain will increase the quality. Air dry or dry at low heat, 5-10 degrees above ambient temperature and always keeping the grain below 100 degrees. “Move a lot of air to keep it from heating!” Ganoe instructed. “Keep the temperature low. You don’t want it to germinate.”
It is very important to contact and work with malt houses, distillers and livestock farms to secure a market for your crop before planting.
Contact Kevin Ganoe at email@example.com for more information and updates.