February 2021 eNewsletter
Early considerations for seeding this year
Now that we have emerged from the polar vortex, that covered most of Saskatchewan for the past couple of weeks, even -20°C seems warm and refreshing. It is enough to remind us that spring really is just around the corner. Planning for spring planting probably started last fall, but the task list as we approach spring is growing.
Strong demand for barley from China has strengthened barley prices the past few months. Buyers are locking up supply for new crop barley at attractive prices. As a result, there is a lot of interest in barley. Seed for feed varieties may be hard to come by now. Saskatchewan normally grows 70-75% of barley acres as malt varieties, so the available seed for feed varieties will be more limited. That said, many of the new malt varieties rival the feed varieties for yield. And, with a malt variety, the marketing options are more flexible, opening up another two million tonnes of market that a feed variety does not offer.
The newest malt varieties that are seeing growing demand from malt companies are CDC Bow, AAC Connect and CDC Fraser. They offer improved straw strength, improved disease resistance and higher yields compared to varieties like CDC Copeland or AC Metcalfe. The Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC) recently released an overview of these new varieties.
The SaskSeed Guide and Varieties of Grain Crops are excellent resources for comparing new varieties, which also includes CMBTC’s Recommended Malting Barley Varieties List. SaskBarley supports the regional variety trials that generate the data to support the variety guide.
Whether you are buying new seed or using your own seed, a seed test is a critical and inexpensive source of knowledge to get your crop started right. Not knowing the germination or having a seedling disease could be the difference between a bumper crop and an average or even poor crop.
There are qualified seed testing labs across the province and prairies. A list of accredited labs can be found on the Canadian Seed Institute website. “Accredited” means that the lab has been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to conduct standardized seed tests. Not all tests offered at a seed testing lab are regulated. Generally, germination and seed purity are the accredited tests. That means that regardless of what lab you go to, if it is accredited, they will conduct those tests in the same way.
Germination, thousand kernel weight and a disease screen are the most needed tests. Germination and thousand kernel weight are needed to calculate seeding rates. Disease screening is important to understand what potential issues you may have when planting and allow you to decide if you want to find new seed, adjust your seeding rate and/or apply a seed treatment.
Vigour tests are common seed tests. The vigour test is supposed to give an estimate of performance under stressful conditions. Germination tests are conducted under ideal conditions, which is rarely the situation in the field. Cold soils, salinity, seed to soil contact and moisture stress can all impact crop growth and development. A vigour test may provide an indication of performance when any of those stresses are present.
There are no fixed rules on when a new seed lot should be sourced if you are using your own seed. Certified seed must be at least 85% germination, as well as purity standards. Other than true loose smut in barley, there are no disease testing requirements either. There are guidelines for using seed infected with Fusarium species; generally, once total Fusarium spp. are greater than 10%, a seed treatment is recommended. If there is still somewhere in Saskatchewan where Fusarium graminearum has not been found, be careful to not introduce it with the seed.
The SaskSeed Guide and Varieties of Grain Crops has an article on page VR7 “Interpreting Seed Test Results” that could be useful as further resource. A new podcast from SaskWheat – Wheat Profit – has an episode on seed testing that provides good information.
In next month’s e-newsletter, we will review seeding rates and dates. Stay tuned!
Code of Practice
You may have been hearing discussion lately around the Code of Practice being developed by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops (CRSC).
SaskBarley released its official position on this issue earlier this week. See full position
A reminder that CRSC is currently facilitating producer consultations on the topic, regarding the current Code of Practice draft. We strongly encourage all producers to provide feedback on this very important issue. You can do so by sending your feedback directly to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Another round of consultations is slated for the fall, after revisions have been made based on the current consultations. For more information visit: https://responsiblegrain.ca/contact/
SaskBarley Board elects new Chair, Vice-Chair
In January, our Board made some changes to its executive in preparation for three of six Directors completing two consecutive terms in January 2022.
Matt Enns, who joined the Board last year, replaced Jason Skotheim as the Board Chair.
Enns actively farms in a multi-generational grain operation alongside three other owner-operators near Rosthern, SK. He is also a co-founder of Maker’s Crafted Malts, Saskatchewan’s only craft malting facility.
Skotheim replaced Brent Johnson as Vice-Chair and will provide valuable mentorship during his final year on the board. Johnson, who has interests in feed barley, will also focus on lobbying for increased export and sales reporting in Canada throughout 2021 (following a related resolution at our AGM earlier this month).
Johnson and Allen Kuhlmann are also in their final year of consecutive terms on the Board. Keith Rueve, on his second term, and Glenn Wright, who joined the Board last year, complete the team of six.
Skotheim and Johnson served as Chair and Vice-Chair for six years. Their respective areas of expertise and interest were drivers for many of the positive developments SaskBarley has overseen in recent years.
It’s an election year for SaskBarley. Get involved
This fall we will have elections to fill three spots on our Board of Directors! If you are interested in helping shape the future of the barley industry, this is your opportunity to get involved.
Watch for more information on how to get involved in coming months. Nominations will open this summer.