By Peter Watts, CMBTC and Mitchell Japp, MSc, PAg, Provincial Specialist, Cereal Crops
Saskatchewan produces more malting barley than anywhere else in Canada. The malting barley produced here makes excellent malt, which makes excellent beer.
Malting barley is different from other crops in that it must be delivered to the customer in a living state. In order to produce malt, the barley must be germinated. That germination needs to happen uniformly so the malt meets functional requirements.
Selectors and buyers of malting barley in Canada require barley to not have been treated with pre-harvest desiccants in an effort to uniformly dry the crop, or glyphosate products for controlling perennial weeds. While individual companies have their own means of enforcing this position, contracts with growers generally state that malting barley shall not have been treated with desiccants or other products such as glyphosate or saflufenacil. Use of these products is not accepted by the malting barley industry in Canada due to the potential for compromised quality, such as a reduction in germination capacity.
It is important to remember that glyphosate is not a desiccant, so it should not be used for dry-down in any crop. But, in malt barley, it also cannot be used for pre-harvest weed control.
In Canada, the "Keep it Clean" program provides farmers with guidance on the proper use of crop protection products. The following statement is provided on the Keep it Clean website: "Malt Barley – Glyphosate (i.e. Roundup), Saflufenacil (i.e. Heat) will not be accepted by grain buyers if treated pre-harvest."
Many Western Canadian buyers and selectors have technical staff that can aid farmers with management decisions on how to achieve premium malt quality without resorting to desiccants or improper use of glyphosate or saflufenacil; Ministry of Agriculture staff can also help with these decisions. Applying specific practices such as early seeding, manipulating plant populations to reduce tillering and increase uniformity, swathing, and choosing correct genetics for a specific growing area will help achieve premium malt quality.
For more information, visit the Keep it Clean website or read about the ministry's malt barley Crop Walk.