Crop Report #1 German Spring Barley
Spring barley plantings in Germany are now complete. Based on the amount of seeds purchased by
farmers and on initial estimates by the German state agricultural associations, the total acreage of
spring barley planted in Germany this year is about 400,000 ha, of which about 300,000 ha are
expected to be of brewing barley quality. These values are virtually unchanged from the previous
The hot and dry summer of 2018 was a once-in-a-century event. It was followed by an unusually
warm and dry fall, which stretched well into November. Annual precipitation until that time had
been only 51% of the long-term average. This deficit left the soil extremely dry. Fortunately, the
2018/19 winter turned out to be very mild with plenty of precipitation. This partly compensated for
the accumulated lack of moisture in all German growing regions. Temperatures during the winter
months eventually ended up about 2.6°C above the average compiled since the start of such
measurements in 1881. This meant that the 2018/2019 winter was the hottest yet on record.
Nonetheless, perhaps the most memorable weather aspect of the previous winter was the enormous
amount of snowfall, especially in Bavaria and Saxony, which drove the total amount of precipitation
to 201 liters per square meter — a 17% increase over the long-term average of 181 liters per square
meter. Only the Erfurt Basin in Thuringia, which is a significant growing region for German brewing
barley, suffered a precipitation deficit throughout the entire winter of 2018/2019.
Many regions of Germany also experienced several spells of well-below freezing temperatures,
especially in January, which produced beneficial frost tilths and loosened the soil for spring sowing.
Thus, spring barley planting started under very favorable soil conditions near the end of February and
continued until mid-April. Because winter had left enough residual moisture in the soil in most
regions, crop emergence was generally excellent. However, in those regions, where the moisture
deficit prevailed during the winter months, crop emergence was negatively impacted.
By the end of April 2019, unfortunately and ominously, the German Weather Service reported once
again acute drought conditions, especially in the north, east, and south of the country. This
dramatically raised the risk of forest fires; and winter grain crops and oil seeds started to show early
and visible signs of drought damage. For the fate of this year’s German spring barley crop, therefore,
the amounts of precipitation in the coming weeks will be decisive.
The barley varieties planted in Germany this year, for the most part, followed the recommendations
of the Berlin Program. They are Avalon, Quench, Solist, and Leandra. In addition, RGT Planet is
holding its own, as well as a few specialty varieties that are cultivated under contract.
The German Malting Barley Association will release the next crop report towards the end of May.