Barley Production, Barley Nutrient Content, and Quality of Malting Barley in Western Canada 2020


Total barley production in Western Canada in 2020 is estimated at 10,416,300 tonnes, and the total area planted with barley is estimated at 2,994,200 hectares. These figures are higher than those from 2019 when 9,996,300 tonnes of barley was produced from 2,878,00 hectares of seeded area. The 2020 average yield for barley in Western Canada is estimated at 71.8 bushels per acre, an increase from 71.1 bushels per acre in 2019.

In 2020, CDC Copeland dominated the portfolio of malting barley cultivars in Western Canada at 42.4% of the total area seeded with malting barley. For the first time, the area seeded with AAC Synergy (22.5%) exceeded that seeded with AC Metcalfe (17.7%). The area planted with recently registered two-rowed cultivars, especially AAC Connect, CDC Bow, CDC Fraser, and Sirish continued to grow. Together they accounted for approximately 11.2% of total area seeded with malting barley varieties in Western Canada, up from 4.9% in 2019.

During the early part of the growing season in 2020 much of the Prairies experienced below average temperatures that delayed emergence and slowed crop growth. In late May and June, rains in many areas allowed the crops to get well established. Adequate moisture and heat during the growing season in a large part of the Prairies, coupled with a relatively dry harvest, allowed Canadian farmers to produce one of the best malting barley crops in a decade.

The 2020 barley crop can be characterized by good yields, few issues with pre-harvest sprouting and disease, as well as high test weights and plump kernels. Overall, protein content in barley grain had an average of 11.8% dry basis (db) in 2020 compared to 11.5% (db) in 2019. The 1000 kernel weight of this year’s barley had an average of 45.5 grams (g) compared to 45.1 g last year. The average kernel weight of the newer Canadian malting barley varieties, such as AAC Synergy, AAC Connect, CDC Bow, CDC Fraser, CDC Churchill, and CDC Copper, were noticeably higher than that of CDC Copeland and AC Metcalfe.

Barley had an average germination energy of 99%, higher than the 10-year average (98%), and little water sensitivity. Very good quality malt was obtained from 2020 barley with adequate levels of enzymes (diastatic power and α-amylase), soluble proteins, and free amino nitrogen (FAN). Slightly higher concentration of grain proteins in 2020 barley likely contributed to somewhat lower malt extract levels compared to those in 2019.

Overall, favorable growing and harvest conditions allowed Canadian farmers to produce a very good quality malting barley crop in 2020 with ample supply for both the domestic and international markets.

In 2020, we also began analysis of nutritional components in barley to obtain a better understanding of nutrient levels in various genotypes and barley classes, and to increase awareness and appreciation of the nutritional and health values of barley grain.