Growing malting barley in Northern Ontario to meet demand from brewers
There’s demand from Ontario breweries for Ontario-grown malting barley. There’s also demand from Northern Ontario farmers for new crops to diversify production and expand crop rotations.
Bringing that together in a way that benefits both farmers and brewers is the subject of a Grain Farmers of Ontario research project supported by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership).
“Through the Partnership, we are investing in important agricultural science, innovation, and new markets for our crops,” said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “We are pleased to support research that encourages the sustainability and prosperity of agriculture, and in this case, specifically towards the expansion of agriculture opportunities in our northern regions.”
“This is an innovative project that has promise to help our hardworking grain farmers and the value chain associated with our robust beer industry,” said Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Northern Ontario is an ideal region for growing the crop: its climate is similar to that of Western Canada, where most Canadian malting barley is currently grown. Quality standards for brewing are strict; the crop must be free of mycotoxins and have low protein levels, so appropriate management practices are essential.
Ten different barley varieties are being trialed at research stations in New Liskeard, Thunder Bay, and Emo, and on-farm by the Rural Agri-Innovation Network in Algoma to identify those that will be most productive, and to establish best growing practices.
Research also includes finding optimal nitrogen and sulphur application rates to improve yield and malt quality, as well as an economic analysis to determine if the investment into those applications pays off in higher yields and better quality. Canada Malting Co. Limited is providing malt quality and micro-malting testing in an effort to promote the industry and promote barley breeding.
“We want to be able to tell farmers this is a crop they can grow confidently in Northern Ontario and give them the management practices to produce the quality standards needed for brewing,” said Project Coordinator Emily Potter of the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance.
Adding a new crop to a rotation reduces disease and insect pressure. As well, malting barley will earn farmers 20 per cent higher revenue over growing feed-quality barley. The new crop will also support local food initiatives by helping to meet the demand for Ontario-grown malting barley by the province’s burgeoning craft brewing sector.
“We wouldn’t be able to complete this work on such a wide scale without funding from the Partnership. Northern Ontario covers a large area, and our results wouldn’t be as beneficial and accurate if we weren’t able to run trials in each different region,” said Potter.
The project will be eligible for more than $70,000 in support from the Partnership.