Higher seed rates are needed for April-sown spring barley crops, to account for the shorter growing season, growers have been told.

While drilling of many Scottish barley crops in particular has been delayed due to cold, wet weather, there is still time to plant, providing seed rates are adjusted accordingly, said Scottish Agronomy’s Andrew Gilchrist.

In order to meet malting specifications, growers will also need to cut back on nitrogen fertiliser rates, he said.

“The later we go, the less nitrogen you need to get the same grain nitrogen. That’s because you’re producing less grain per unit area because you don’t have the same tillering capacity. So you have to cut back on nitrogen to get the same specification.”

Simon Phillips from New Farm Crops agreed, but added that while seed rates need increasing for later-drilled crops, they should be tailored to the variety’s tillering capacity.

“For Optic, the suggested seed rate for March drilling in Scotland is 375-400 seeds per square metre, rising to 400-425 seeds per square metre in April. However for the higher tillering variety Cocktail, only 350-375 seeds per square metre are advised for April drilling in Scotland.

“There’s no doubt that spring barley yield will decline as drilling moves later. But it’s not worth simply turning your back on the crop – April-drilled Optic in Scotland last year still yielded 7.78 tonnes a hectare.”