Choosing seed

Look for seed lots that are true to variety, have high germination with strong vigour, and are free of disease and weed seeds. Use certified seed, especially for malting barley, and treat the seed, especially if it will be seeded into cool soils. If you are using your own seed, ensure it has been tested by a lab for germination, disease and vigour. Labs can also test for varietal purity.

When to seed

Early seeding is generally recommended for malting barley, as it has been linked with higher quality attributes and yields. Feed barley can be seeded later, although later seeding has been linked to lower yields. Early seeded malting crops tend to mature before soil moisture levels become depleted, making crops better able to capitalize on longer spring days and slightly cooler temperatures before the hottest part of the summer. Early seeding for malting crops can also help you avoid cool, wet falls, ensuring crops are less likely to weather and sprout pre-harvest. Early seeding of malting crops has been associated with quality advantages such as plump and uniform kernels, lower protein content, disease avoidance and overall higher yields.

Soil temperature

Factor in the soil temperature to determine when to seed your barley crop, as this will impact seed germination and overall yield. Optimal soil temperatures for seeding barley are 10-20°C, but barley is relatively tolerant to cold, and therefore can be seeded at a minimum soil temperatures of 4-5°C. Barley is also able to withstand frost damage in the early growing season. To measure soil temperature, choose an instrument that measures temperatures at specific depths. Before taking your reading, determine the depth at which you will be seeding and then make sure to take your reading at that depth. Take one measurement in the morning and another in the early evening, then calculate the average between the two – that will determine the soil temperature at the depth of seeding. Take your measurements on soil that is representative of the land to be seeded.

Field selection

Choose relatively uniform fields with good drainage. If patchiness does occur, these areas could be harvested separately. Avoid fields where volunteers of other cereal and large oilseed crops have been a problem. Proper crop rotations will also help lessen disease pressures and avoid volunteer seed issues. 

Seeding depth

Seeding depth should be approximately 1.5-1.75 inches (or 3.8-4.5 centimetres). Although having the seed in contact with moist, firm soil is important, placing the seed below 2 inches (or 5 centimetres) is not recommended. Deep seeding can result in weak plants, reduced emergence and vulnerability to root and seedling diseases.

Seeding rates

Producers should consider their germination percentage, seedling mortality, seed size (or thousand kernel weight), as these factors can significantly impact seeding rates. For malting barley, the seeding rate should be in the range of, but not exceeding, 300 seeds per meter squared. Higher plant density reduces tillering, resulting in more even maturity, which is undesirable for the uniform germination desired in the malt house. Maintaining an adequate seeding rate around 300 seeds per meter squared will lead to better seed uniformity and performance during malting and brewing.

View Alberta Agriculture Seeding Rate Calculator View Saskatchewan Agriculture Malting Barley Production Recommendations View Manitoba Agriculture Barley Production & Management Page

The advantages of direct seeding

Direct seeding is recommended to help increase overall yield and quality.

Direct seeding improves soil moisture management and allows for shallow seeding into a moist, firm seedbed. It also improves soil conservation and soil organic matter and tilth, reduces wind and water erosion, and minimizes the incorporation of weed seeds into the soil. Direct seeding allows farmers to use pre-seeding or pre-emergent weed control methods. These methods involve using herbicides to control a broad range of weeds. Farmers are usually advised to combine glyphosate with other herbicides in order to increase the effectiveness of the glyphosate, provide residual control, and decrease glyphosate resistance.
References: Alberta Agriculture and Saskatchewan Agriculture