Economics Blamed for Declines in Barley Acres

CANADA - A researcher with the University of Saskatchewan suggests the main reason for recent drops in the number of acres seeded to barley in western Canada is economics, Bruce Cochrane writes.
calendar icon 19 November 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

End users of barley have expressed concern over the dwindling number of acres seeded to the crop in western Canada in recent years.

Dr Brian Rossnagel, an oat and barley breeder with the University of Saskatchewan's Crop Development Centre, suggests it comes down to economics and barley just isn't priced high enough.

Dr Brian Rossnagel-University of Saskatchewan

30 years ago when I first was in school we thought about rotations and we talked a lot about rotations between cereal crops but the reality in western Canada now is that rotations are really between cereals, pulses and oilseeds.

Within the cereals, for most farmers in most situations, it doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot whether that rotation crop is wheat, oats or barley and they'll choose the one that makes the most economic sense for them.

So when a farmer sits down and looks at it I'm sure that what they do is they say what's my worst case scenario here and when they're growing barley most of them are looking to grow malting barley.

If they can make malt they'll probably do OK relative to wheat or oat.

However if the worst case scenario is selling it for feed, I think about a decade or so ago, maybe even five or six years ago you could sit down and say if I get feed for this I'll cover my cost.

For the last few years and currently it simply doesn't make economic sense to put the barley seed in the ground.

You're better of growing, depending on where you're located in western Canada, oat or wheat and particularly wheat.

It's much more flexible and you've got a pretty good idea of what you're going to be able to get for it.

The real issue is that barley has become the bottom crop of the three cereals in terms of choice for most people.

The bottom line is that the floor price for barley, which was feed, has really dropped too low to be economically viable for many producers in western Canada.

Dr Rossnagel says we really need to look at the value of crops and if barley doesn't have additional value then it makes sense to grow wheat or oat.

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