New winter barley varieties would encourage growers to specialise towards a particular end market rather than hedging their bets by growing dual-purpose varieties, Cambridge Arable Technologies variety expert Richard Fenwick said at the organisation’s open day preview.

While market leader, dual purpose two-row variety Pearl remained popular with approximately 30% market share this season it was likely to be replaced by new varieties coming through that would need growing specifically for malting or feed use, he believed.

“For example, Flagon is a pure malting variety.

It’s not suitable to be grown for feed, one, because there are other higher yielding feed varieties, and two, because it is weak strawed.”

That would prevent growers overloading with nitrogen and pushing for maximum yields because of the risk of lodging, he said.

“But it is also good for the maltsters because it will mean it produces the low N grain they are looking for.”

While Flagon yields were similar to Pearl, Saffron was set to replace Carat as top yielding two-row feed variety with yields some 5-6% more than Pearl.

“Its yield is equivalent to the older six-row varieties, such as Sequel.”

Saffron had had seed production problems in the past, Mr Fenwick noted.

“But I’ve been assured seed should be in good supply this autumn.”

Six-row variety yields had also increased in leaps and bounds, he said.

“If you want a huge heap to feed on farm then Colibri is one to go for.

It yields 6% more than Saffron.”

Its main weakness was, akin to other six-rows, its specific weight, which would make it a better option to feed on farm rather than market.

“But we are looking at trials trying to manipulate its specific weight with fungicides.”

Candidate two-row variety Retriever from Nickerson-Advanta looked extremely promising, he added.

“Its yield is right up there with Colibri at 112% of the controls.”

And the breeding house’s malting candidate, Cassata, could bring much needed barley mosaic virus resistance into that market, he said.

“There isn’t an acceptable malter at the moment with mosaic virus resistance.

I’m convinced there is more around than people think.”

mike.abram@rbi.co.uk