START drilling spring barley in mid-December to secure top yields and lower N levels, urged Alan Bide of Hampshire Arable Systems at FarmTech this week.
Conditions are ideal for good seed-bed formation, especially after sugar beet, agreed colleague Travor Scarff of Stowmarket. "I have some growers who have planted already."
Mr Bide believes the winter hardiness of modern varieties means there is little risk of plant loss. "Some of the later varieties, like Chariot, seem to be more winter-hardy compared with some older ones. Weve had them survivingto as low as -16C."
"As long as growers on lighter land can get a good seed-bed, they should consider drilling early."
Yields climb by 0.6-1t/ha (5-8cwt/acre), he maintained. Plants establish better roots, so take up N more smoothly and are less drought-prone, so screening levels are lower. Growers should aim for 400 seed/sq m to allow for crow damage, added Mr Bide.