All I want for Christmas…
Research and Extension Manager
Everyone stops at the field by me
My barley varieties are old, see?
Old varieties can’t compete for me
But my one wish on Christmas Eve is as plain as can be
All I want for Christmas is a new variety
A new variety
Gee, if I could have a new variety
Then I could wish you, “Merry Christmas”*
Fortunately, this might just be a Christmas wish that could come true! At least, it has been coming true on several farms across the province for the past few years.
We all know that variety turnover is slow in malt barley. Varieties are initially enjoyed by farmers for production and demand in malt contracts. But eventually, they are surpassed by new varieties with superior yield, agronomic characteristics and disease resistance. After a couple of decades, the advantages of the new varieties on farm lead to a shift in preference.
We’ve seen CDC Copeland overtake AC Metcalfe as the dominant malt variety over the past number of years, but both of those varieties are now over 20 years old. Varieties registered within the past 10 years have started to grow in popularity and are seeing increasing contract options from malt buyers, with export markets evaluating performance of the new varieties as well.
The Canadian Grain Commission compiles acreage data by variety from the provincial crop insurance data annually. The 2021 data is available now so I compiled it over the past 8 years, which covers the first appearance of all the newest varieties currently on the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre’s Recommended List.
It is exciting to see the shift towards some of the new varieties, with AAC Synergy in particular, but also AAC Connect, CDC Fraser and CDC Bow starting to take over some of the acreage CDC Copeland occupies. CDC Copeland is a great variety, but there are some excellent options in new varieties out there, that may be worth your while to try. Yield comparisons, along with disease ratings and more are available in the new Varieties of Grain Crops online. One thing to consider with the new varieties is a winning combination of increased yield potential, lower protein levels and improved resistance to lodging and disease, which combine nicely to give farmers an opportunity to strive for higher yields while maintaining quality. SaskBarley and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture have been supporting research to evaluate the best input combinations for new, higher yielding and generally improved varieties, with preliminary results available online.
Seed supply is bound to be constrained this year due to the drought affecting seed production. Take a look and see what is out there, check with your malt buyers, and maybe “Santa” can work some magic – and, if not this year, then plan ahead for next year.
*(adapted from All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) (Remastered 1999) –Alvin and the Chipmunks)