Alberta Barley

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Crop damage

Adverse weather conditions like frost and hail can have severely detrimental effects on barley, depending on the stage of the affected crop, the variety being grown and several other factors.

Early seeding is an excellent tactic to avoid fall frost damage to barley crops in most parts of Alberta. Using early-maturing varieties can also help to avoid damage, even in areas with short growing seasons. Vulnerability to frost damage increases as the plants mature; however, the likelihood of severe frost decreases as the growing season progresses. Damage is most prevalent in the fall when the crop is filling or maturing, and may not be visible, as kernels are killed while leaves remain relatively undamaged. When barley frosts after kernels have filled there is no obvious damage, but frozen grain will not germinate—making it useless for seed or malting. A crop frozen at the flowering stage or later can still be harvested as hay or silage, as long as nitrogen levels are low enough for safe animal consumption. 

Cereal crops like barley will recover from severe hail damage if it occurs before the end of the tillering stage. Hail occurring after the stem extension or shooting stage will severely lower yield. If a barley crop experiences severe hail damage after heading, silage or hay may become the best available option for the crop. Common, light hailstorms that partially damage barley crops can more negatively affect certain varieties than others. In general, two-row varieties tend to stand up to these hailstorms better than six-row varieties.

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