Quality of Western Canadian malting barley 2017 - Annual Harvest Survey

3. Annual Harvest Survey

Sampling and survey methodology

The 2017 malting barley survey was based on varietal composites, representing over two 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, and Viterra 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 end of October 2017. 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 2017: general trends and annual statistics

The quality of barley that was selected for malting in 2017 was excellent. The average levels of barley proteins (11.5%) in 2017 were slightly lower than the 10-year average (11.7%) (Figure 3.1). Barley exhibited excellent germination vigour and energy (Figure 3.2). This year's barley had very high average 1000 kernel weight (44.9 g), higher than the 10-year average (43.9 g) (Figure 3.3). Kernel plumpness, a measure of kernels remaining on the 6/64" slotted screen, averaged 93.6%, which was higher than the 10-year average (92.0%) (Figure 3.4). The average kernel diameter and kernel weight were also determined for individual varieties using the Single Kernel Characterization System. The results, presented in Figure 3.5, indicated differences among barley varieties with Bentley, AAC Synergy, CDC Bow, and AAC Connect having bigger and heavier kernels than other varieties tested this year.

Figure 3.1 Average protein content in barley selected for malting from 2007 to 2017

Chart:Average protein in barley,2007-2017.Details below

  • Details
    Average protein content in barley selected for malting from 2007 to 2017
    Crop years 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 10 yr avg
    Protein, % 12.3 11.7 11.2 11.6 11.4 11.9 11.2 11.7 12.4 11.3 11.5 11.7

Figure 3.2 Average germination energy of barley selected for malting from 2007 to 2017

Chart:Average germination energy of barley,2007-2017.Details below

  • Details
    Average germination energy of barley selected for malting from 2007 to 2017
    Crop years 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 10 yr avg
    Germination energy, 4 ml % 97 99 99 96 99 98 98 96 97 97 99 97.6

Figure 3.3 Average 1000 kernel weight of barley selected for malting from 2007 to 2017

Chart:Average 1000 kernel weight of barley,2007-2017.Details below

  • Details
    Average 1000 kernel weight of barley selected for malting from 2007 to 2017
    Crop years 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 10 yr avg
    1000 kernel weight, g 39.0 44.6 44.3 41.7 44.2 41.5 47.7 44.2 45.7 46.5 44.9 43.9

Figure 3.4 Average plumpness of barley selected for malting from 2007 to 2017

Chart:Average plumpness of barley,2017-2017.Details below

  • Details
    Average plumpness of barley selected for malting from 2007 to 2017
    Crop years 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 10 yr avg
    Plumpness, over 6/64" sieve (%) 84.0 93.8 94.1 92.1 93.2 88.4 93.1 93.3 94.5 93.1 93.6 92.0

Fig. 3.5 (a) Average kernel weight or two-row barley cultivars selected for malting in 2017

Chart:Average kernel weight of barley by variety in 2017.Details below

Kernel weight were determined using Single Kernel Characterization System.

  • Details
    Average kernel weight of barley varieties selected for malting
    Variety Kernel weight (mg)
    CDC Copeland 45.9
    AC Metcalfe 45.5
    AAC Synergy 48.4
    Newdale 46.0
    Bentley 49.2
    CDC Kindersley 44.4
    CDC Bow 53.6
    AAC Connect 50.1

Fig. 3.5 (b) Average kernel diameter for two-row barley cultivars selected for malting in 2017

Chart:Average kernel diameter of barley by variety in 2017.Details below

Kernel diameter values were determined using Single Kernel Characterization System.

  • Details
    Average kernel diameter of barley varieties selected for malting
    Variety Kernel diameter (mm)
    CDC Copeland 2.52
    AC Metcalfe 2.54
    AAC Synergy 2.58
    Newdale 2.57
    Bentley 2.57
    CDC Kindersley 2.52
    CDC Bow 2.66
    AAC Connect 2.56

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 Rapid Visco Unit = 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 to 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.

The majority of barley samples tested in 2017 survey was sound as indicated by high RVA values (>120 RVU) as shown in Figure 3.6. This year's high RVA values have been attributed to relatively early harvest and dry harvest conditions in Western Canada.

Figure 3.6 RVA results for barley selected for malting in 2017 in comparison with previous years

Graph of RVA results in AB,SK and MB for malting barley,2014,2015,2016 and 2017.Details below

The boxes in the graph shows 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.

Risk of germination loss in storage
Risk of germination loss in storage RVA Viscosity (RVU)
Low ≥120
Intermediate 50 to 120
High <50

Malting conditions and methodologies

Initial malting trials indicated that, compared to 2016, this year’s barley needed slightly longer immersion periods during steeping to achieve adequate hydration levels. Accordingly, sufficient steep out moisture levels were achieved using two slightly longer wet steep cycles at 14°C. The germination and kilning steps were conducted according to the same schedules as last year. All analytical methods used in this survey to assess the barley, malt and wort quality are listed in Methods.

Malting conditions used with the GRL Phoenix Micromalting System in 2017
Steeping 8 hours wet steep, 16 hours air rest, 7 hours wet steep, 15 hours air rest @ 14°C
Germination 96 hours @ 15°C
Kilning 12 hours @ 60 to 65°C,  6 hours @ 65°C,  2 hours @ 75°C,  5 hours @ 83 to 85°C

Malting quality in 2017 - Highlights 

  • The dry growing season in 2017 resulted in ample harvest of excellent malt quality barley. 
  • Protein levels in barley grain were slightly lower, whereas thousand kernel weights and kernel plumpness levels were higher than the long-term averages.
  • The majority of barley tested in this survey was sound and showed very high germination energy (99%) with little evidence of water sensitivity.
  • High kernel weight and plumpness combined with low protein content resulted in high levels of malt extract.
  • The levels of soluble proteins and free amino nitrogen (FAN) in worts were slightly lower than the long term average values for the most common malting barley cultivars. The levels of enzymes (diastatic power and α-amylase) in malts were adequate and close to the long term average values.
  • Well-modified malts resulted in worts with low viscosity and low level of β-glucans.
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