Crop Report #2 German Spring Barley – May 25, 2023
Based on seed sales and early estimates by the malting barley associations of the German federal states, the German spring barley acreage will likely be about 350,000 ha, which represents a decline of roughly 4 percent compared to the previous year. The main reasons for this reduction appear to be the heightened demand for feed and energy crops after the dry and hot summer of 2022, as well as the difficulties this season of accessing many fields in time for spring sowing. On the other hand, spring barley sown in autumn experienced a further increase in acreage. The previous year, it was about 25,000 ha but is likely to be 45,000 to 50,000 ha this season. However, because many areas that experienced winter crop damage were plowed under and replanted with spring barley, it is difficult to separate and quantify the acreage data for fall and spring plantings precisely.
According to the German Weather Service, this year, for the first time in 15 years, the month of April was too wet. The average April temperature was 7.5 °C, which is about 1.5 °C cooler than the average between 1991 and 2020. Preliminary data suggest that at least 64 liters of precipitation per square meter fell in April this year. This is about 10 percent more than the average 58 liters for the same reference period. Precipitation was ample, especially at the beginning and around the middle of April, as well as towards the middle of May. However, this precipitation was unevenly distributed from north to south. While the regions near the Baltic Sea remained fairly dry, with some areas receiving hardly more than 20 liters per square meter, some of the regions near the Alps got more than 200 liters per square meter. Even though the recovery of the water balance in Germany was both necessary and welcome, some areas that were earmarked for spring barley plantings could not be tilled in time and had to be reallocated. This caused a loss of barley cultivation acreage of roughly 2 to 3 percent, mostly in southern Germany.
The protracted and sometimes late sowing combined with the cool weather caused a slowdown of plant growth, but not critically so. There were also early reports of increased weather-related fungal disease pressures from Rhynchosporium, which causes leaf blotch or scald. However, it could not always be treated optimally, especially in the south, because the soil was simply too wet for machinery.
On the positive side, because of the precipitation, the plants received plenty of water in all of Germany and fertilizers reached the roots easily and in time for efficient nutrient uptake. Therefore, plant development thus far is satisfactory everywhere.
As usual, the varieties planted in Germany are guided by the Berliner Program. This year, these are Amidala, Lexy, Leandra, Avalon, and to a lesser degree, RGT Planet. In addition, there is some contract farming of several other specialty varieties.