Quality of Western Canadian malting barley 2016 - Annual Harvest Survey

Annual Harvest Survey

The 2016 malting barley survey was based on 57 varietal composites, representing about one million 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., and 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 beginning of November 2016. All results presented in this report represent weighted averages based on tonnage of composite samples received and analyzed.

Quality of barley selected for malting in 2016: general trends and annual statistics

The quality of barley that was selected for malting in 2016 was generally good. The levels of barley proteins in 2016 (11.3%) were substantially lower than in 2015 (12.4%) and lower 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 (46.5 g), higher than in 2015 (45.7 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 93.5%, which is considerably higher than the 10-year average (91.6%). 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 and AAC Synergy having bigger and heavier kernels than other varieties tested this year.

Average proteins content in barley selected for malting from 2006 to 2016

Chart:Average proteins in barley,2016-2016.Details below

  • Details
    Average proteins content in barley selected for malting from 2006 to 2016
    Crop years 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 10 yr avg
    Protein, % 11.9 12.3 11.7 11.2 11.6 11.4 11.9 11.2 11.7 12.4 11.3 11.7

Average germination energy of barley selected for malting from 2006 to 2016

Chart:Average germination energy of barley,2006-2016.Details below

  • Details
    Average germination energy of barley selected for malting from 2006 to 2016
    Crop years 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 10 yr avg
    Germination energy, 4 ml % 99 97 99 99 96 99 98 98 98 97 97 97.8

Average 1000 kernel weight of barley selected for malting from 2006 to 2016

Chart:Average 1000 kernel weight of barley,2006-2016.Details below

  • Details
    Average 1000 kernel weight of barley selected for malting from 2006 to 2016
    Crop years 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 10 yr avg
    1000 kernel weight, g 41.7 39.0 44.6 44.3 41.7 44.2 41.5 47.7 44.2 45.7 46.5 43.5

Average plumpness of barley selected for malting from 2006 to 2016

Chart:Average plumpness of barley,2016-2016.Details below

  • Details
    Average plumpness of barley selected for malting from 2006 to 2016
    Crop years 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 10 yr avg
    Plumpness, over 6/64" sieve (%) 89.5 84.0 93.8 94.1 92.1 93.2 88.4 93.1 93.3 94.5 93.1 91.6

Average kernel weight of barley selected for malting

Chart:Average kernel weight of barley by variety in 2016.Details below

  • Details
    Average kernel weight of barley varieties selected for malting
    Variety Kernel weight (mg)
    Bentley 52.80
    CDC Copeland 49.47
    CDC Kindersley 47.20
    AC Metcalfe 47.63
    AAC Synergy 49.85

Average kernel diameter of barley varieties selected for malting

Chart:Average kernel diameter of barley by variety in 2016.Details below

  • Details
    Average kernel diameter of barley varieties selected for malting
    Variety Kernel diameter (mm)
    Bentley 2.72
    CDC Copeland 2.58
    CDC Kindersley 2.58
    AC Metcalfe 2.56
    AAC Synergy 2.65

RVA results for barley selected for malting in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016

Graph of RVA results in AB,SK and MB for malting barley,2013,2014,2015 and 2016.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 or swathed and not yet combined; 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. The results are expressed as viscosity in Rapid Visco Units (RVU) than can be converted to centipoise (cP) (1 RVU = 12 cP).

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 (temperature and relative humidity) and the initial moisture content of the grain have to be taken into account.

Among the samples tested in 2016 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 and 2015, 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, especially if the moisture content of grain is relatively high. As indicated in the next sections of this report, pre-germinated barley malted soon after harvest can produce good quality malt.

Malting conditions and methodologies

Initial malting trials indicated that sufficient steep out moisture levels were achieved using two wet steep cycles. Despite relatively large kernel weight and diameter, kernels took up water easily with total wet steep time of 12 hours. All analytical methods used in this survey to assess the barley, malt and wort quality are listed in the Methods.

Malting conditions used with the GRL Phoenix Micromalting System in 2016
Steeping 8h wet steep, 16 h air rest, 4 h wet steep, 16 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 2016 - Highlights 

  • The selection of barley for malting purposes in 2016 was challenged by the above normal rainfall through July and August, which increased disease potential in the barley crop, and by wet harvest conditions, which increased the incidence of pre-harvest sprouting. However, the quality of barley that was selected for malting was good.
  • Protein levels in barley grain were substantially lower than in 2015 and lower than the long-term average values.
  • Thousand kernel weights and kernel plumpness levels were higher than the long-term averages.
  • Barley germination was adequate; however, some water sensitivity was present.
  • Malt made from 2016 barley resulted in record high extract levels surpassing the long-term average values.
  • Wort was characterized by slightly higher than average levels of β-glucans, but acceptable wort viscosity, and lower than average levels of soluble proteins, free amino nitrogen (FAN), and colour.
  • Production of good quality malt from the 2016 barley crop is achievable through diligent barley selection and timely processing.
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