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Barley growers impressed with VRT results

Crops hit yield and quality expectations, and bring an easier harvest

Barley growers impressed with VRT results

Data collected by Decisive Farming from several farms across Western Canada in a program using variable-rate technology (VRT) to produce malting barley crops in 2018 showed considerable production gains over industry averages.

Data collected from 17 farms, involving about 9,300 acres of malt barley crops showed on acres seeded with both variable-rate seeding and fertilizer technology an average yield of 85 bushels per acre, average protein levels of 11.45 per cent and average kernel plumpness of nearly 91 per cent.

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That’s considerably higher yield than the 2018 Western Canadian average of 65 bu/ac, as reported by the Canadian Grain Commission, and protein and plumpness levels were well within industry criteria for malting barley quality.

“Producers involved in our VRT trial were quite positive, quite favourable with their response to how variable rate technology performed,” says Remi Schmaltz, CEO of Decisive Farming. The Alberta-based company is planning to double its data collection survey in 2019.

The Decisive Farming project, launched in 2018, had a dual objective: to introduce malting barley producers to variable-rate technology and also to collect data for the company’s own research data base. The company paid participating producers $4 per acre for their data when they signed up for the company’s VRT services (Optimize RX) on malt barley acres on fields where VRT had not been used before.

Producers keep and market their malt barley, and Decisive Farming includes the production and marketing data in a data base they’ve been building for several years as part of their field scale malt barley research. All information is kept confidential — none of the producer data is marketed or shared with third party interests, all privacy is protected by Decisive Farming.

Decisive Farming offered the program for the first 15,000 acres signed up in 2018. “We came in just shy of the 15,000 acres, but were able to collect data from 17 different producers over about 40 difference fields of malting barley,” says Schmaltz. Due to harvest difficulties and other factors, the data collected represented about 9,300 acres of barley. Schmaltz says they are offering the program to up to 30,000 acres in 2019.

Along with decent yields and excellent barley quality, Schmaltz says producers reported other benefits. “Most producers reported seeing improved standability of the crop on VRT acres,” he says. “More even emergence of their crops and more even maturity. Crops were more dense and with even maturity they felt they had improved coverage during field spraying operations, such as fungicide application. We even had some producers who straight combined their malt barley.”

The objective of variable-rate technology is to identify different soil types and production zones in a field and apply inputs such as seed and fertilizer where they will do the most good. It doesn’t necessarily mean more or less inputs, but more effective use of inputs.

As part of the Optimize RX program, Decisive Farming collects field satellite imagery to create management zones, collects soil tests for the management zones, develops seeding and fertilizer variable rate prescriptions for the field, provides field and technical support and follows up with yield analysis.

For more information on the malt barley program visit the Decisive Farming website or call Elise Dubourg at (403) 479-3637.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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