Each crop year is distinctive and offers a teaching moment. Our intake process remains the same, the results are always different.
In previous years, we’ve seen warm, dry springs drive rapid growth and early harvests. Mother Nature delivered a long, cool spring across the Southeast this year. These conditions supported steady stand growth and maturation. This slow growth pushed harvest back to late June in some spots across our network.
Overall, quality levels are looking good for 2020. Very little issues with DON (vomitoxin), good test weights, low protein, and plump kernels. However, high levels of dormancy were reported in both 2-row and 6-row barley varieties. This was likely driven by the below average temperatures that the crop experienced.
As you may know we work with 2-row Calypso and Violetta barley varieties. Our stalwart, Thoroughbred, remains part of the mix. Modern 2-row barley varieties are typically bred to have little to no dormancy. However, Calypso and Violetta have moderate levels to help weather our summer rain showers.
Dormancy refers to the period of time after harvest in which germination levels are suppressed. This trait can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it will often be ready to plant and grow without issue in the fall. The curse is the potential for pre-harvest sprout damage to occur. When this occurs, the barley begins the malting process in the field and can perform erratically in the malt house.
We gauge the severity of this issue by comparing germination levels from samples that have been “steeped” in 4ml with a sample that includes a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide breaks dormancy and shows us how many kernels are viable.
So what do we do with this information?
Quite simply, we wait. We continue to run pilot steeps and 4ml germination tests in the lab until we see 90+% levels. Most likely we’ll be able to work with the 2020 harvest by mid-September. Thankfully, we have enough material from the 2019 harvest to maintain production.
PS – Be on the lookout for the return of our Streaker Oats, we just received our first shipment today and will be malting them soon!