7 July 1995

Barley growers enter a whole new ball game

WITH malting prices "beyond anybodys expectations" and predicted to remain firm, barley growers are entering a "whole new ball game", according to NIABs head of combineable crops, John Ramsbottom.

Winter barley took a knock when set-aside came in. But signs are that the 1995 crop area is up a modest 7.5%, and premiums of £40-£50/t, due to world shortages, are generating increasing interest in the crop in East Anglia, he says.

Unlike winter wheat, where two varieties dominate the seed area, there are more barleys each with a significant share.

Among the most popular this year, says NIAB, is likely to be Fighter, which despite having only a 6 rating for malting found its way to China for brewing last year when supplies from Australia and elsewhere dried up.

Early reports suggest it, and some Intro which also went into the same export package, have not been too well received, says Zenecas Alan Armstrong. "It was obviously a price market." Colleague Bram van der Have warns that only genuine malting varieties should be offered to maltsters to avoid tarnishing the UKs good name.

Malting aside, Fighter has plenty going for it, says NIABs Bill Handley. "Its high yield and stiff straw combined with good resistance to mildew and net blotch has proved attractive for many growers for whom its late maturity is not a major disadvantage."

Potential high yielder

Comparative newcomer Gaelic, an out-and-out feed type, looks set to figure strongly again, despite this seasons difficulties caused by a combination of vigorous early autumn growth and late spring frosts. As a potentially very high yielder it cannot be ignored, says Mr Handley. "This was the first year in five that we had seen any problems with it."

Short, stiff-strawed and with good resistance to brown rust and net blotch, it is rather prone to rhynchosporium and, somewhat surprisingly, late maturing. Key NIAB advice is not to sow before late September.

Pastoral is another high-output feed variety, which, like Puffin, was listed as far back as 1989. It remains popular despite its mildew susceptibility, says Mr Handley. And with a treated yield of 127 against Gaelics 129 it competes well with newer introductions.

Intro rates only a 5 for malting. But with its high yield, large grain and long but fairly stiff straw it will appeal to many growers, especially those on mixed farms, and is likely to increase its market share, he says. "Intro has good resistance to brown rust and net blotch but is somewhat susceptible to Rhyn- chosporium."

Halcyon, Pipkin and Puffin remain the most popular winter malting barleys, though only the first is IoB approved throughout the UK. Together they account for about a fifth of the certified seed area. Puffin is early and stronger strawed, the others, first listed in 1985 and 1986, respectively, being weak.

Among others with small but significant seed areas the six-row feed Manitou is early and has good rhynchosporium resistance. At 135 it has the highest treated yield rating on the list but its specific weight, at 65.6kg/hl, is relatively low.

Hanna, another out-and-out feed type, joins Gaelic on the recommended list with the highest potential yield of the two-rows. It has stiff straw and good resistance to rhynchosporium and net blotch. Its only real weakness is against mildew, says Mr Handley.

"Sunrise is a further useful addition to the portfolio of varieties with resistance to barley yellow mosaic virus and barley mild mosaic virus." Other plus points include stiff straw, good specific weight and yield similar to Fighter. It has some malting potential but gives a lower hot water extract than established varieties making it potentially less attractive to maltsters. &#42


Winter barleys: Share of certified seed area for harvest 95 (%)

Fighter19.5

Gaelic14.9

Pastoral13.2

Intro10.6

Puffin9.9

Halcyon6.5

Epic3.7

Pipkin3.6

Linnet3.2

Others14.9

Source: NIAB.

Barley bonanza in the offing? Growers must check with the trade to see which malting varieties offer the best export potential, advises Bill Handley, NIAB specialist.