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Improving malting barley yield and quality in northern climates

Principal Investigator: Emily Seed1, Cameron Ford1, Kim Jo Bliss2, Tarlok Singh Sahota3, Nathan Mountain4, Mikala Parr5, (Sampling & Data Analysis – Rich Joy6 and Kenneth Janovicek7), (Project Consultants – Bill Deen7, Aaron Mills8 and Duane Falk)

Research Institution: 1Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA), 2Emo Agricultural Research Station – University of Guelph, 3Lakehead University Agricultural Research station (LUARS), 4New Liskeard Agricultural Research Station – University of Guelph, 5Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN), 6Canada Malting Company (CMC), 7University of Guelph (U of G), 8Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

Timeline: April 2018 – December 2020  


  • Assess several varieties of malting barley, including dual-purpose and heritage varieties, relative to location-specific needs in northern Ontario.
  • Determine optimum rates of nitrogen and sulphur application to improve grain yield and malt quality including maintaining protein specifications.
  • Quantify economic value of improved yields and management practices by assessing return on investment of optimal rates of nitrogen and sulphur.


  • The evaluation of malting barley varieties, including heritage varieties and dual-purpose varieties, will allow farmers to anticipate yields and returns while accounting for climatic and site differences that exist across Northern Ontario.
  • The determination of optimal management practises for malting barley in Northern Ontario will allow farmers to be more economically sustainable by improving grain yield and malt quality.
  • Effective malting barley production practices for Northern climates provides an opportunity for cash cropping by including malting barley in the crop rotation.
  • Accessing local markets with local products could result in a reduction in environmental footprint compared to importing malting barley from western Canada.
  • The project built on collaborations among research facilities in the north and involved contributions from the processing industry.

Scientific Summary:

There has been a large increase in craft breweries and an associated need for malting barley. Most of the malting barley currently produced is in Western Canada but there is an expanding market for malting barley grown in Ontario. Canada Malting Company, with 160,000 MY/year requirement for malting barley, is aggressively building up interest with northern Ontario’s grain farmers to increase production to save on transportation costs. The climate in Northern Ontario is somewhat like that of Western Canada and offers a promising opportunity to support further growth in malting barley production. However, malting barley must be grown with appropriate management practices to meet all the standards required for brewing, including levels of protein and mycotoxins (none) in the grain. With strict quality requirements and mycotoxin regulations for malting barley, and with varying growing conditions across Northern Ontario, research on variety evaluations and nutrient management techniques will support Ontario growers in accessing these markets. Marketing malting barley comes down to grain quality and price, and ensuring production costs can be properly managed and desired quality achieved will allow northern producers to better meet market needs.

Apart from weather, yields are governed primarily by genetics (varieties) and nutrient management. Therefore, the two goals of the project were to evaluate varieties of malting barley and determine optimal levels of nitrogen and sulphur application to meet specific location and market requirements. Algoma, Manitoulin, Parry Sound and Nipissing are in the precipitation shadows of Lake Superior and Lake Huron and experience different crop growing conditions than Rainy River, Thunder Bay and Temiskaming, so trials were held in four locations to address site conditions. Dual purpose barley varieties may be a highly strategic crop option for Northern Ontario farmers to include in their rotations. If conditions are not conducive to producing malting-quality grain, the grain can be used to feed livestock. Nitrogen and sulphur applications have the potential to increase not only grain yield, but protein content too. Therefore, this project focused on determining optimum rates of nitrogen and sulphur to improve grain yield and quality of malting barley, ensuring economically viable yields to farmers and a good quality barley supply to the malting/brewing industry.

The project findings were looked at regionally to help producers select varieties and best management practices best suited to their region. Based on the results of this project there is strong potential for both market development and increasing production of malting barley grown across Northern Ontario. For a complete copy of the Final Report and its recommendations please go to the link below:

Improving Malting Barley Yield & Quality in Northern Climates – Final Report

External Funding Partners:

Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA)

Canada Malting Company (CMC)

Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership)

This project was funded in part by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

Project Related Publications:

Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance. 2021. Improving malting barley yield & quality in northern climates – final report.