Saturday, February 24, 2024

A Successful 2023 Malt Barley Crop, Growers Optimistic About 2024

by Grace McDonald

2023 Crop Overview

Molson Coors relies heavily on Montana malt barley growers, both domestically and internationally, as more than one third of their barley is from Montana. Northern Ag Network’s Grace McDonald recently spoke with Mike Killen, the southern Montana agronomist for Molson Coors. Killen gave an overview of the past year’s crop quality and what he expects of the 2024 crop.

Like every other year, there were highs and lows this growing season. Mike said that they started out with a really good crop outlook with great emergence; but then came the heavy rainfall in May and June-so much that some irrigated acres didn’t even get irrigated. Along with that came water logging and disease. Fields were able to dry up and mature in time for harvest, which got them through most of the season, until the rain decided to show up again.

Killen talked about the effects that the heavy precipitation had on the malt barley.

“When we were down to about 30 percent of crop left in the field, we had some significant rains throughout the areas that caused some preharvest sprout damage. We have learned over the years that if we can get it in and get it malted before germination starts to decline on the barley seed, that we can make use of it.”

Molson Coors was still able to make use of about 65 percent of the barley that had rain damage.

2024 Crop Outlook

Killen said that he is excited for this year’s crop because of the long fall, extending the farming season into December for a lot of their growers.

“The result of that is that a lot of the field work has been done, with seed beds planted and fertilizers already in the fields.”

The only concern he has is that there is a poor snow pack in the mountains so far, which irrigators rely on, but that there is still a lot of winter left to bring the snow pack up to more average levels.

Killen works with about 120 growers in the southern Montana production area, and volume production varies from year to year. Although there have been growing issues to challenge, growers along with Coors have been able to make the best of it, and continue to bring in 38 to 42 thousand acres of barley to the elevator in Huntley every year. Molson Coors fully expects to meet that range again this year.

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Northern Ag Network

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