Malting barley crop makes history in Newfoundland

A no-till grain drill was used on June 9 to plant Cerveza malting barley at Larch Grove Farm in Cormack, N.L. Pictured standing on the grain drill, from left to right, are Newfoundland Distillery Company co-owner Peter Wilkens, area MHA Scott Reid, Ian Richardson of Larch Grove Farm, and Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Steve Crocker. (Vanessa Kavanagh photos)

A no-till grain drill was used on June 9 to plant Cerveza malting barley at Larch Grove Farm in Cormack, N.L. Pictured standing on the grain drill, from left to right, are Newfoundland Distillery Company co-owner Peter Wilkens, area MHA Scott Reid, Ian Richardson of Larch Grove Farm, and Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Steve Crocker. (Vanessa Kavanagh photos)

Newfoundland and Labrador’s inaugural malting barley crop has taken root at Ian Richardson’s Larch Grove Farm in Cormack.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s inaugural malting barley crop has taken root at Ian Richardson’s Larch Grove Farm in Cormack.

In 2016, 15 acres of Cerveza barley was planted as a feed crop at Larch Grove Farm in Cormack, N.L. The small acreage allowed researchers to assess the barley under conventional management in preparation for the malting barley project.

In 2016, 15 acres of Cerveza barley was planted as a feed crop at Larch Grove Farm in Cormack, N.L. The small acreage allowed researchers to assess the barley under conventional management in preparation for the malting barley project.

by Heather Jones
History was made on June 9 when 10 acres of Cerveza malting barley were planted on Larch Grove Farm in Cormack, N.L.
Ian Richardson of Larch Grove Farm expects to harvest the crop in mid-September and keep the straw for bedding his dairy herd. If the quality is suitable, the grain will be shipped to the Newfoundland Distillery Company in Clarke’s Beach to be malted. Once the malting process is complete, the distillery will ship the grain back to the farm. 
“This project will test the viability of growing malting barley to be used in two local industries,” Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Steve Crocker said. “The long-term anticipated result of this project is the establishment of a partnership between dairy farmers and local craft brewers and distillers that can increase self-sufficiency and profitability without diverting a feed from the livestock industry.” 
“Brewers and distillers have approached us several times in the last few years wanting to secure grain for their businesses,” said Vanessa Kavanagh, a research scientist with the provincial agriculture research station in Pynn’s Brook. 
Almost all the province’s grain is grown in trials.
“Given that we still are only harvesting around 250 tonnes a year – and dairy farmers use every kernel – we couldn’t allow grain to be diverted from the feed system,” said Kavanagh.
She added that Newfoundland and Labrador has a short growing season “and grain doesn’t usually make it to dry status.” In 2016, the province purchased a six-tonne dryer that “allows us to dry the grain down and send it out to brewers or distillers. It can also handle spent (used) brewers grains.
“When the wet distillers grain comes back from the distillery, it may need to be dried, depending on how wet it is,” Kavanagh said. “We are working with a sample now to see if we will have to dry it or if we can simply put it through the Murska bioprocessor we already use for high-moisture grain, and bag it in wet form. The literature provides many different options and we just need to find what works best for our situation.”
She said the spent grain will be “reincorporated into the farm’s feed system in a slightly different form, but with similar nutritional value.” 
A lot of planning and preparation work went into the province’s inaugural malting barley crop.
Last year, 15 acres of Cerveza barley were planted in Larch Grove Farm’s loamy soil as a feed crop. “It grew quite well,” Kavanagh said. While 15 acres is not a large quantity, it allowed researchers to assess the barley under conventional management. “This year, we will be using a different fertilizing schedule to reflect the different growing methodology for feed versus malt,” she added.
Only one variety of barley was planted this year. “We were using a small test area of only 10 acres so we didn’t want to split it into two varieties and have a mixture of qualities/characteristics for the distiller,” Kavanagh explained.
Weeds were sprayed in early June and “the malting barley was simply no-tilled into the stubble that remained from last year’s soybean trial.”
Richardson is the only farmer involved with the project but Kavanagh said others have expressed interest.
“It will take time to ensure we can get to the quality level required for malting and use in the beverage industry, but we believe this can be a success in Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said.