Achieve genetic potential with good management

Article taken from the Agronomist & Arable Farmer, written by Heather Briggs

Whatever your barley variety choice, the key to achieving genetic potential is in your management, says Agrovista agronomist Tim Bullock.

“Yield is driven by tiller number.  Unlike wheat, barley is unable to compensate and put on a late spurt.  Therefore your nitrogen fertiliser strategy and its timeliness are vital to yield,” he points out.

Nonetheless, yield potential, maturity, test weight, and lodging should all feature highly when deciding on what to plant.

However, remarks Mr Bullock, despite new varieties appearing more frequently than ever, around the Gloucestershire area there are three predominant names.  KWS Glacier, KWS Cassia and the hybrid six-row Volume have cornered the market.

“Retriever has always struggled a bit on specific weight but the crossing of Retriever and Cassia has produced the new entrant KWS Glacier,” he explains.  “This has resulted in a bold sample similar to Cassia while still retaining the yield potential of Retriever.

“Both Cassia and Glacier have BaYMV [barley yellow mosaic virus] resistance and both need watching for mildew.”

He comments that Volume has steadily gained favour, especially with mixed farming businesses where the plentiful straw and reasonable specific weight (for a six-row) have attracted growers.

“However, it is fair to say that we are still learning how to get the best from hybrid barley.  Seed rate, nitrogen timing all have a significant effect on the performance of hybrid barley.

“The full potential of these hybrids is not easy to exploit but we are learning all the time and yields are consistently higher than the best of the two-rows.

“Cassia and Glacier seem to like the Cotswolds’ land and Volume is the first six-row varieties.  This is why they gained popularity.

“Winter barley, in particular, can be easier and cheaper to grow, needs less crop care and is earlier and so easier to harvest.”

Looking ahead to spring varieties, Mr Bullock remarks on the huge potential for malting barley.

“Propino, Concerto and Tipple are leading varieties,” he says.  “These are coming under pressure from newer varieties such as Sanette and Odyssey, both of which offer higher yield potential compared with most of the market leaders.

“However, Sanette is still under test and Odyssey has only a provisional IBD approval.  It is imperative to check with the buyer before committing to a malting variety.

“For example, this year there is a lot of malting quality spring barley, so the premium on sending it is low.  But if it is in short supply it is worth paying the extra transport costs and picking up the premium.

Watch Nitrogen Levels

“However, if you are chasing yield, the chances of high N levels in your malting sample are high, so take care with your nitrogen strategy if you want the option of a malting premium.”

There is no perfect variety and both new and old have their Achilles’ heel.  Winter varieties Glacier and Cassis suffer from mildew; Cassia also struggles with rhynco; and Volume suffers from brown rust.  Spring varieties are similarly affected, with Tipple suffering from rhynco, Quench becoming susceptible to brown rust and Propino to both yellow and brown rust.

“Good fungicide and herbicide programmes are still important, whatever you grow.  You need to know your land, microclimate and susceptibilities.  For example, although you can keep on top of rye-grass and black-grass, if your land is infested with brome there won’t be anything you can do about it and it’s best not to grow barley on that land.”

Mr Bullock notes that the nitrogen content of all varieties, whether feed or malting, will vary widely, depending on growing conditions.  “If the crop is subject to stresses such as drought, lodging, and disease, nitrogen content will be higher.  Too much nitrogen fertiliser – especially if timing is not correct – will have the same effect.

“Optimum growing conditions will produce a maximum yield of plump kernels with nitrogen content of between 1.5% to 1.9% and a high proportion of carbohydrates.

“This is where we want to be for feeding ruminant animals, as well as for malting.

“Regardless of variety, sowing date, location or market, disease management is an all-important factor in barley as it helps you to maximise grain numbers by protecting tillering and ear formation,” says Mr Bullock.


11 October 2013

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