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Malt barley seeding rates

By Jeremy Boychyn M.Sc, P.Ag, Agronomy Research Extension Specialist 

The seeding rate plays an important role in all crops. It contributes to the number of plants per square meter (or square foot). Each crop has specific plant density requirements to encourage high yield and quality. Understanding and sowing the appropriate crop-specific plant density through specific seeding rates will set the stage for a high potential crop.

Malt barley is no exception to the importance of the seeding rate. Over the past few decades, numerous research projects investigated the impact of the seeding rate on malt barley. One of the most notable research projects is O’Donovan et al. (2012). The study was conducted at 8 locations across western Canada in 2006, 2007, and 2008 (24 site-years) and assessed yield and quality at harvest. O’Donovan seeded AC Metcalf at 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 seeds/m2(9, 19, 28, 37, and 46 seeds/ft2).

The research concluded:

  • The optimum seeding rate of AC Metcalf needed to attain a high yield is 300 viable seeds/m2 (28 viable seeds/ft2)
  • Increased seeding rates decreased the number of days to maturity
  • Increasing seeding rates at a set nitrogen rate decreases kernel protein. At 300 seeds/m2 (28 viable seeds/ft2) protein was within acceptable levels for malt
  • Kernel plumpness decreased at higher seeding rates. However, plump at 300 seeds/m2 (28 viable seeds/ft2) was at acceptable levels for malt
  • Kernel uniformity at 300 seeds/m2 (28 viable seeds/ft2) was within acceptable levels for malt

In summary, seeding rates above 300 seeds/m2 (28 viable seeds/ft2) will decrease time maturity and protein while increasing kernel uniformity. Seeding rates below 300 seeds/m2 (28 viable seeds/ft2) will increase kernel weight and kernel plump. However, seeding at 300 viable seeds/m2 (28 viable seeds/ft2) provided the best yield potential while maintaining all malt quality characteristics within the malt acceptance range.