Harvest Report #1 German 2021 Spring Barley
Early results of the 2021 German spring barley campaign suggest that this year’s harvest has come in far below the values forecast even as late as the regular barley inspection tours in late summer. At that time, expectations were still high because of adequate moisture in the soil and moderate weather prospects. In the spring, however, it was already clear that the area under spring barley cultivation had contracted dramatically in 2021 to just under 300,000 hectares, a reduction of 16 percent compared to the previous year. Combined with the below-average harvest yields, the current estimate of this year’s total harvest amount to just 1.57 million metric tons (MT).
Initially, the generally cool and rainy spring in Germany had benefited the stocks. Tillering was satisfactory and the crop’s early development, healthy. Thus, there was no cause for concern. However, as early harvest results now reveal, waterlogged soils, lodging, a lack of sunshine, and a sluggish harvest with repeated interruptions from intense precipitation events created both qualitative and quantitative problems. Even the earlier harvest of winter crops had already indicated that the hectoliter weights (bushel weights) would be below average this year. In Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Lower Saxony, in particular, the plumpness rating (percent of kernels with a diameter ≥2.5 mm) was also unsatisfactory. The average plumpness rating for all German 2021 spring barley is only 86.7 percent, well below the 93.2 percent of the previous year. A protein content of 10.6 percent measured in most harvest samples, however, is within malting specifications. Higher protein values were recorded only in North Rhine-Westphalia and northern Bavaria, as well as in parts of Thuringia.
Based on a mathematical extrapolation of currently available sample data, only about 1 million MT of the total of 1.57 million MT of barley are deemed to be of malting and brewing quality. Because of the short harvest windows between severe precipitation events, as well as the late completion of the harvest near the end of August, the moisture content of the current crop is comparatively high and there was plenty of senescence. The sophistication and speed of modern, powerful harvest equipment helped, but could not prevent the disappointing results. According to initial assessments, the increasing popularity of sowing spring barley varieties already in the fall turned out to be advantageous this year because these crops ripened earlier, well before the onslaught of the fall rains.
The main varieties cultivated in 2021 were Avalon, Leandra, Solist, Accordine, and two new varieties, Amidala and KWS Jessie. All of these are recommended by the Berlin Program. The contract cultivation of RGT Planet and several older varieties round off this year’s variety spectrum.
The data in the attached table is still very preliminary for many federal states because the lateness of the harvest also delayed the evaluation of harvest samples. The recorded volumes and quality results are not reflected in the current tight and high-priced market for malting barley. The Brewing Barley Association will release its final harvest report for the year in mid-November.