June 2021 eNewsletter
Global Barley crops mostly (but not all) favourable
It’s natural to focus mainly on crops close to home. That’s especially the case for barley, since a good portion of the crop is used within western Canada. Still, one of the lessons from 2020/21 is that the export market was the reason why barley prices hit record highs. That’s why it’s important to keep one eye on the Canadian barley crop and one eye on production elsewhere.
There’s still a lot of growing season ahead for the western Canadian barley crop and so far, conditions are fairly decent, but that’s certainly not universal. In Saskatchewan, provincial crop ratings are above average but barley in northern regions is looking a lot better than further south. The overall crop rating for Alberta barley is also above average but the centre of the province is in better shape than the south and north. And like we said, it’s still early.
Normally, the US barley crop doesn’t have much impact on the market but it could this year. Conditions in northern US states are the worst in over 20 years and yields will be down sharply. The US hasn’t imported much barley from western Canada for the last five years or so, but that should change in 2021/22.
Barley crops in other key exporters are looking better. In western Europe, there are a few problem areas but not many stresses across much of the continent. In particular, key exporters such as France aren’t facing any meaningful difficulties. The EU remote-sensing group, MARS, recently raised its yield estimates further for both winter and spring barley, with the overall yield now 4% above the 5-year average.
In the Black Sea region, conditions are also positive, with the winter barley harvest just about to get underway. Rainfall has been almost too much, raising concerns about disease, but the tap seems to have shut off the last week or two, allowing the crop to finish well.
There are some areas of concern in Australia but overall, the crop is looking good, especially in Western Australia, where most of the barley exports come from. Of course, Australia isn’t exporting barley into China right now, but it is filling demand in a number of key markets and reducing the strain on global supplies. The other key southern hemisphere exporter is Argentina and conditions there are more mixed.
China is still the dominant factor for the global barley market, taking nearly 10.8 million (mln) tonnes in 2020/21. And with Australia out of the running as a supplier, other countries have to fill the gap. In the absence of Australia, the main origins have been Ukraine, France, Canada and more recently, Argentina. So far, there aren’t any serious warning signs about these barley crops so there will be strong competition for the Chinese market.
The bigger question is how big Chinese demand will be in total for 2021/22. Since September 2020, China has often imported over a million tonnes of barley per month. We expect some of that increased demand was caused by Chinese crop losses in 2020, which won’t likely recur in 2021. If that’s the case, there could be more barley chasing a smaller market in 2021/22, and that wouldn’t be helpful for prices.
Fungicide – to apply or not to apply?
And if applying, when?
2021 seems so far to have been a year of extremes, including early drought, strong winds, early season, extreme heat, heavy rain, and late frosts. Precipitation is still needed regularly in many areas for crop development, but many areas have had enough precipitation that fungicide application may be warranted.
Barley generates most of its yield from the penultimate leaf, with significant yield also coming from the leaf sheath above the penultimate leaf, and the antepenultimate leaf (check out this link for details). The flag leaf is important, but earlier protection is necessary in barley under significant leaf disease pressure.
Dr. Kelly Turkington, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, led a research project looking at the impact of fungicide timing in barley production from 2010-2012. Their primary focus was looking at the practice of including a fungicide at herbicide timing. The research clearly showed that fungicide application to protect the upper canopy with a fungicide application at flag leaf was most effective. (CPJS 95:525-537)
What about fusarium head blight (FHB)? Dr. Turkington is working on improving our understanding of fungicide timing for FHB in barley. Barley is different from wheat. Unlike wheat, barley starts to flower in the boot. The head is protected while in the boot, but is susceptible once emerged until around soft dough stage. The most damage comes from infection with head emergence. There is no value to apply fungicide to heads that are still in the boot, so optimum timing is once the heads have fully emerged from the boot.
What about protecting from both leaf diseases and FHB? Research in wheat suggests that fungicide at FHB timing generally provides enough protection from leaf disease as well as FHB. That research is not as well established in barley, but Dr. Turkington does have some research (unpublished) comparing fungicide timing at flag leaf and FHB timing. In years where disease pressure is low to moderate prior to flag leaf emergence, the FHB timing appears to provide sufficient yield protection from leaf disease. In situations where disease pressure is high starting from the stem elongation stage, and exacerbated by tightened rotations, an environment conducive to disease development, and/or a susceptible variety, a dual application may be warranted, with a flag leaf fungicide as well as one for FHB.
Good fungicide management decisions come down to an understanding of the disease triangle. In order to have the disease, you need:
- a susceptible host,
- a virulent pathogen, and
- the right environmental conditions.
When managing leaf disease, it is a bit more straight forward than spraying for FHB. The primary goal is to protect the upper canopy so those leaves can be contributing to yield.
- Check field history – disease pressure may be higher in fields with a short rotation.
- Check the leaf disease resistance ratings in the Varieties of Grain Crops.
- Scout your fields and watch for signs of the disease (except FHB where risk maps are more appropriate). Also observe the crop canopy. Scouting should start at the seedling stage during weed scouting activities and then continue until after head emergence.
- Pay attention to weather patterns.
- Determine if the crop is worth further investment to protect it from leaf disease, based on yield potential, price, potential loss due to disease and the cost of the fungicide application.
There are a lot of factors to consider, but fungicides are relatively expensive so it is worthwhile taking the time to make the decision.
New tool available to farmers to report on common diseases in prairie crops
Quick Disease Reporter Tool from PCDMN
The growing season is hectic.
Disease development can happen quickly. Knowing what is going on around the region, province or prairies can help guide crop scouting activities.
The Prairie Crop Disease Monitoring Network has developed a tool that growers and agronomists can use that will help facilitate awareness of disease outbreaks to focus crop scouting activities and risk assessment for potential timely fungicide application.
Reasonable efforts will be made to verify the accuracy of reports, however the PCDMN, or its affiliates, cannot certify accuracy of every entry. As such, this tool, and the data collected, are not intended or assumed to be official or verified reports for any jurisdiction.
The PCDMN QDRT will work best when growers and agronomists report their observations from regular scouting. The PCDMN has posted a guide on how to best use the QDRT.
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).
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.
These scholarships are open to any post-secondary students enrolled in part- or full-time studies, while graduate level students are encouraged to be studying barley research. Scholarship recipients are eligible to re-apply in subsequent years.
To apply, submit the following to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- A one-page summary of your research project(s), outlining how the research will:
- help ensure barley is a long term, profitable and internationally competitive crop choice for Saskatchewan producers;
- increase the production and value of barley for both the producer and consumer; and/or
- support either the food, feed, malt or industrial uses of barley.
- An accompanying letter from an academic supervisor, confirming the research
- Confirmation of enrolment
- A current CV
The deadline for applications is August 9, 2021. Successful applicants will be notified by August 31, 2021.