Malting barley varieties for feed end-use?
Feed barley varieties have been known to have higher yields compared to malt barley varieties. Barley growers in Alberta, which produces about 50 per cent the barley grown in Canada, seed more malt barley varieties compared to feed because malt barley in most years will sell for a premium. However, malt barley which does not meet the stringent malt quality requirement is sold to the feed market. Although feed barley prices are lower, this is usually offset by higher yields from feed barley varieties.
Recent studies are suggesting that yield increase has been higher in newer malt barley varieties compared to newer feed barleys. With the yield gap closing-in between feed and malt barley varieties, some producers are wondering whether it is more profitable to grow the higher yielding malt varieties and treat them agronomically as feed by supplying a generous amount of nitrogen to benefit from the extra higher yields with the goal of selling to the feed market. The availability of higher yielding malting barley varieties may be an attractive option for barley growers even if they are not guaranteed malting quality as these may be sold for feed end-use, offsetting the price differences between malt and feed with the higher yields they may get.
There is an old adage that if you are not getting malt grade barley 50 per cent of the time, you are better off growing higher yielding feed varieties and selling for feed. Alberta Barley’s response to this growing interest has been to support a proof of concept study with the goal of growing malt and feed barley varieties with two nitrogen levels (one targeting obtaining malt quality and the other targeting higher yields) and comparing their yields to determine if it is profitable to grow malt varieties for feed end-use. Hopefully, by the fall 2019 some data will be available to answer some of these questions.