For brewers of all kinds, malt and hops play a large role in the production of beer. Malting companies like Malteurop often work closely with farmers to analyze different crops, such as barley, in order to better understand how the conditions in which they are grown might affect the product being sent to brewers. Knowledge of each year’s crop allows malt companies and brewers to make better business decisions in order to create the highest quality product. Mark Black, Malteurop’s Western Barley Manager gave some insight into understanding each year’s crop, and below are resources including free reports and more.
Q: What information is typically given in any planting report and what can it tell you?
A: Typically, the volume of acreage of each commodity tells us how supplies should be going in to a season and also how competitive barley is versus other commodities. It will also show in what States barley is most prevalently grown.
Are there any parameters that are most important? If it shows planting dates and if we are able to get the Barley planted timely or if there are environmental conditions that is delaying planting.
Q: At what point during the year do you typically look at or receive a planting report?
A: Starting in April on through early June.
Q: Why is it important?
A: Each state is different but if barley is not planted by late May (N. Dakota) to early June (Montana) then the farmer cannot receive full insurance on his crop (loses 1% yield per day for 7 days) and after a subsequent date of 7-10 days (depending on State) they cannot insure it at all as the risk is too high that the farmer will not be able to harvest prior to snow/winter.
Q: Who uses the information on a planting report?
A: Many USDA reports are built off farm surveys by the USDA and FSA (Farm Service Agency). The “trade” or “industry” will use it to identify acreage changes (supply) and areas of concern.
Q: What makes a “good” or “bad” crop?
A: Early planting! Then moisture conditions in both the top soil and sub soils. Availability of irrigation water (either snow pack or reservoir) in areas where irrigation is possible and then rain/precipitation patterns. Once the barley is emerging we look for health of plants (no disease etc.) and then how the plant is stooling (how many tillers are coming from one seed, which is determined by moisture conditions). Cool nights are very important as well as it will allow barley to rest from hot days in July. Typically, I like to see night time temperatures in the high 50’s to low 60’s.
To learn more, check out the list of resources below containing free malting barley crop reports, information, and crop expertise.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers weekly reports by state in the spring and summer which you can find here: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_Subject/index.php
You can also download general crop conditions reports sorted by U.S. state here: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/State_Crop_Progress_and_Condition/index1.php
http://ambainc.org/ (American Malting Barley Association)
http://www.nationalbarley.com/ (National Barley Growers Association)
http://cmbtc.com/ (Canadian Malting Barley Technical Center)
https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ibms/ (Institute of Barley and Malt Sciences at North Dakota State University)
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