Malt barley has become a specialty crop over the years, grown by farmers who specialize in consistently ‘making malt’.
Scott Keller of New Norway, Alta., and Wade McAllister of Innisfail, Alta. are two of those farmers.
After participating in a malt barley panel discussion at FarmTech ’17, they dropped by to discuss their not-so-secret formula for making malt more often (we’re talking over 90 percent of the time!).
Before getting into the economics and marketing, they shared some of their agronomic keys to achieving the malt standard (summarized below):
- Soil test to make sure nitrogen levels in the soil are balanced to keep protein levels in check, maybe even control some lodging, notes Keller.
- High seeding rates — “…a minimum 150 pounds per acre just to get that even ripening at the end, to keep those tillers from coming up late. That’s the reason we can straight-cut,” says McAllister. Knowing thousand kernel weight is also important as barley can vary widely in seed size.
- A good fungicide program — “If there’s one crop you’re going to bank on spraying a fungicide on every year, it’s malt barley, ahead of canola, ahead of wheat,” says Keller.
- Straight cut it. Don’t leave it vulnerable to rain in swath.
- Use a grain dryer. “It’s the most utilized and efficient piece of equipment on the farm,” says Keller. “Everybody growing malt barley in Central Alberta should (have a grain dryer) or you need to have a tonne of combine power.”
- Make sure malt barley is going into good quality storage.
Related: Beyond the Bushel —Ep. 4: The Journey from Barley to Beer