July 2021 eNewsletter
Canadian barley outlook makes a U-turn
Only a few short weeks ago it looked like the Canadian barley market would be heavy with supplies. A 10% jump in acreage with an average yield should have meant the biggest crop since 2008. Unfortunately, that scenario is now off the table and Canadian barley supplies next year will be even lower than 2020/21.
A month ago, we showed barley crop ratings from the provincial Ag departments and conditions back then were actually a bit above average. Since then, Saskatchewan barley went from 77% good or excellent to just 18% good/exc. That’s the lowest on record going back to 2003. In Alberta, the crop ratings have dropped from 83% to 41% good/exc, the worst since 2015. And the trend is certainly not friendly.
The sharp deterioration in the prairie barley crop caused us to make large changes to our supply and demand estimates. Just nailing down the crop size is enough of a challenge. As a start, we’ve reduced harvested area as more barley will be cut for greenfeed. We’ve also taken the yield down by 20% from the 5-year average, and more reductions may be needed. For now, the result is a 2021 crop guesstimate of 8.76 mln tonnes, a full two million tonnes less than last year. That’s also a reversal of nearly 2.6 mln tonnes from estimates at the beginning of the season.
And it’s not as if there’s a big supply of old-crop barley to cushion the small 2021 crop. Supplies for 2021/22 could drop to 9.2 mln tonnes, 2.7 mln less than last year and the smallest since 2014/15. The key question is how those lower supplies will get divvied up among the various users.
In 2020/21, barley exports exploded to nearly 3.8 mln tonnes, the most since the early 90s, with the vast majority (over 90%) headed to China. There are signs that China’s demand for feedgrains will start to slow once its corn crop is harvested later in 2021. But even if that extra 2020/21 demand is taken out of the equation, Canadian exports will be forced to drop to a five-year low, if not further.
The main consumption of Canadian barley is still driven by domestic users. Even with sharply reduced supplies, maltsters will manage to compete for the roughly 900,000 tonnes of barley they need. Meanwhile, livestock feeders are facing multiple challenges from drought conditions. Barley and other feedgrain crops are all sharply reduced. Cattle will need to be taken off pasture earlier while hay and other feed supplies will be harder to find. Some reduction in cattle herds will take place, lowering demand somewhat.
Corn imports from the US could also pick up to backfill the feed shortage but that will happen if corn prices turn lower or feed barley moves up to parity with imported corn. The last time that happened was 2018/19 when western Canada imported 2.1 mln tonnes of corn.
Ultimately, the outcomes mostly depend on price. Barley prices in other exporting countries have been dropping as their 2021 harvests come in while Canadian barley remains near record highs. That’s going to keep Canadian barley out of export markets as shown in the chart above.
This type of situation has occurred before, when western Canada became a high price island for barley as domestic feeders and maltsters outbid export buyers. In 2020/21, the record high barley prices were driven by the heavy export demand. In 2021/22, export business will fade but prices will remain supported by domestic feed demand. That’s good news for barley growers facing lower yields; not so much for the livestock sector.
Preserving barley quality at harvest
A helpful guide for growers
Preserving the barley quality of this harvest may be a challenge. Of course, the weather pattern we are in could shift before harvest, to something slightly less dry than chalk, but if it holds the current course, expecting dry to overdry barley with low relative humidity at harvest seems reasonable.
What happens to dry barley harvested in a hot and dry environment? It will often peel and crack or break during combining.
The malt industry has a low tolerance for peeled and broken barley kernels because peeled kernels will absorb water more rapidly than sound kernels, resulting in over or under modification of the barley, reducing malt quality. Broken kernels will not germinate or will grow abnormally. Depending on the severity, peeled or broken kernels may not even be able to germinate.
The tolerance for peeled and broken kernels is no more than five percent. A kernel is considered peeled when one-third or more of the hull is removed, the germ is fully exposed, the hull is ruptured over the germ end or the hull is removed along both edges. Broken kernels are less than three-quarters of a whole kernel or kernels with the germ end broken off.
Malt barley is ideally harvested at 16-18 percent moisture content and then dried down to safe storage moisture content of 13.5 percent or lower. This gets the crop in the bin sooner, decreasing the risk of poor harvest conditions. Poor harvest conditions include precipitation that can cause chitting as well as hot, dry conditions that may lead to peeling and cracking. In warm, dry conditions, aeration without supplemental heat may be sufficient to dry the barley down post-harvest. However, there is a risk that tough or damp grain can heat or spoil if not dried quickly and thoroughly.
Rapidly maturing barley may be challenging to harvest early, or if there is not enough on-farm drying capacity to harvest barley early, then other management options can be implemented to reduce peeling and cracking.
Taking the time to adjust the rotor speed and concave clearance and checking the sample can be enough to keep peeled and broken kernels to a minimum. However, as temperature and relative humidity fluctuate throughout the day, the rotor and concave may require further adjustments. Maltsters won’t object to a small piece of intact awn on the barley.
If adjusting the rotor speed and concave clearance are still resulting in too many broken or peeled kernels, avoid combining in the heat of the day. Early morning and evening are best. If that is not practical, store the barley with higher peeled and broken kernels separately.
Once harvested, peeling and breaking can still occur during handling. Run the grain auger a bit slower and ensure it runs at full capacity to keep peeling and breaking to a minimum. Limit handling if possible.
Reference: Canadian Grain Commission Barley Grading Factors
Grasshoppers in Saskatchewan
Learn how to identify grasshoppers, control measures and what the situation is in Saskatchewan
By: Kaeley Kindrachuk, B.App.Sc., TechAg, Crops Extension Specialist, Outlook
Grasshoppers are members of the insect order, orthoptera. Some of the characteristics of this order are generalist mouthparts, jumping legs and incomplete metamorphosis or no larval stage. Orthoptera are then divided into two sub-orders. The first, ensifera includes crickets and the second sub-order are caelifera which are grasshoppers and grasshopper-like species. Many of the ensifera are omnivores with some herbivores. The caelifera are primarily herbivores with about 11,000 species worldwide and about 85 species in western Canada.
Only three to four (sometimes five) of these 85 species are actually pest species so most of what we have in Saskatchewan are non-pest species. Some features of non-pest grasshopper species can be identified if they have wings before late June, “wings in the spring, not a pest,” or if they have brightly-coloured hind wings.
The pest species fall under three broad groups and only two are of major importance. They all have short antennae. Spur throated grasshoppers have a characteristic “spur” on their throats. Their face is vertical or only slightly slanted and the top of their head is rounded. The three main species are the migratory grasshopper, packard’s grasshopper and the two-striped grasshopper.
The migratory grasshopper’s distinguishing feature is the hind legs which are marked with two black bands. These are omnivores and prefer forbs, grasses, wheat, barley and other crops. They overwinter as eggs which hatch in May starting along open south slopes, in fields and rangeland with little vegetative cover and in sandy soils. The young grasshoppers can go through five nymphal stages in 35-55 days.
Packard’s grasshopper is one of the largest species we have. What is characteristic to this species is the two light coloured stripes that extend from just behind the eyes but don’t continue down the wings. They prefer open habitat and light textured soils. They prefer legumes, but will also consume vegetables and small grains. They also overwinter as eggs which hatch from May to June and have five nymphal instars as well.
The two-striped grasshopper is another large species that is distinguished by the two pale stripes extending from the eyes to the tip of the forewings. This species prefers lush habitat and heavier textured soils. They prefer lush foliage, including many of the weed species found in marshes and roadside ditches. They are a pest of alfalfa, cereals and other crops. These also overwinter as eggs. The eggs start to hatch about eight to 10 days ahead of the migratory grasshopper. This species displays migratory behavior of both nymphs and adults as they invade from field edges.
Banded-winged grasshoppers can be pests as well but only one of the species, the clear-winged grasshopper, is typically a problem. This species primarily feeds on grasses. They are yellow to brown, have mottled forewings and transparent hindwings and light stripes that converge. They have a characteristic camouflage pattern on their hindwings. They also overwinter as eggs and nymphs can be seen in May or June. Lack of soil moisture impairs the development of this species. Hatchlings emerge in the morning when temperatures are rising rapidly, especially after a shower the previous evening.
Slant-faced grasshoppers are considered pests, but are only occasionally damaging and never broadly. They are usually found along the borders of marshes and in wet meadows. This species is very diverse so sometimes they can be found in dry, grassy fields and pastures. They primarily feed on rangeland grasses and sedges.
The 2021 forecast was relatively low for most areas of the province, but there may still be areas of the province that could see high numbers of these insects. Producers are still encouraged to scout each field and be aware of economic thresholds in each crop. Cooperators are still needed so surveyors can access fields for the 2022 survey.
For more information and to see various photos of these species:
– Watch a recorded webinar at your convenience;
– Read more information on the ministry website; or,
– Contact your nearest crops extension specialist.
Saskatchewan producer groups call for the creation of an export sales reporting program
SaskBarley is part of a coalition of Saskatchewan producer groups calling for the creation of an Export Sales Reporting Program to improve market transparency for farmers.
The coalition, which includes APAS, SaskBarley, SaskCanola, SaskFlax, SaskOats, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, and Sask Wheat, believes that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s current review of the Canada Grain Act provides a significant opportunity to expand the Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC’s) responsibilities to collect and disseminate data to improve market transparency. We also believe that improving market transparency is a key issue for farmers (this was clearly indicated in resolutions passed at five commissions’ Annual General Meetings this past January).
The producer groups strongly believe that Canadian farmers need timely access to sales and export data. We have taken a few steps already towards fulfilling this goal – we are collectively calling on the CGC to create a daily and weekly Export Sales Reporting Program. We have also written to Minister Bibeau, highlighting the opportunity to improve profitability for farmers and grow the Canadian economy through the creation of a mandatory Export Sales Reporting Program.
Going forward, we will continue to work together to advocate on behalf of Saskatchewan farmers. Watch for more news from us on this important topic in months to come.
Nominations now open for our fall elections!
If you’ve ever considered joining our Board, now is the time! We are currently seeking nominations for three of six director positions on our Board, to begin next January.
The deadline to receive completed nomination forms is Friday, September 3, 2021, at noon. If we receive more nominations than available director positions, elections will be declared and held this fall (you’ll see more information on that at the time).
All election information is available on our website or contact us anytime to learn more.
Four other Saskatchewan crop commissions are also seeking nominations for director positions coming available next year, including Sask Wheat, SaskPulse, SaskMustard and Saskatchewan Winter Cereals. Visit their respective websites for more information.
SaskBarley taking applications for 2021/22 scholarships!
Each year, SaskBarley offers scholarships as an investment in promising university students who are carrying out university-level research focused on barley. The scholarship program also encourages and supports new research to benefit Saskatchewan’s barley sector.
SaskBarley offers scholarships at both a graduate level ($5,000) and an undergraduate level ($2,000) annually.
Visit our website for more information and to apply. The deadline for applications is August 9, 2021.