1 December 1995

Barley successes expected

GROWER experience suggests the success of five of the six candidate winter barleys was not unexpected.

Clifford Spencer, who grew 26ha (65 acres) of "stunning" Gleam for seed last year at Springdale Farm, Rudston, Humberside has since doubled his acreage.

It had slightly less nitrogen than his top-yielding feed type Hanna because it was after a two-year break on stronger land. But at 3.97t/acre, it gave nearly the same output. "Its also a top quality malting variety."

With one precautionary spring fungicide it stayed "clean as a whistle". "NIAB recommendation is still the ultimate test," he says.

Michael Manners is "not surprised" to see Muscat reaching the list. His 25ha (63 acres) at Thornton Hall, Darlington, matched Gaelic for yield despite being let down by one poor field. "There was precious little problem with disease and it has two-row quality without a doubt."

But as a returnee to a six-row after some years, he found combining steady, with awns blocking the sieves. "I wouldnt want more than a third of my barley area in it."

Former farmers weekly Farmer of the Year, Robert Lawton is glad to see both Regina and Gleam recommended. He grew both last year on the strength of trials at the Arable Research Centres of which he is chairman. The UK needs plenty of such varieties to tap into growing overseas markets for malt, he stresses.

Key feature attracting him to Regina was its consistency, a vital requirement of maltsters. "Its not brilliantly better than the others, but it is consistent."

Mr Lawtons Gaelic was frost damaged last year, so Reginas winter-hardiness, proven in Germany, was another plus point.

Gleams tolerance of BYMV is "not yet a selling point" but could prove valuable in future, he adds.

Nick Bumford of Guiting Manor Farms in the Cotswolds trebled his area of Angora grown for malting this autumn because of its yield edge over Puffin. "Its straw strength was very evident. It also has good disease resistance compared with varieties like Pipkin and Halcyon."

Having aimed Prelude mainly at the Irish market, Zenecas Alan Armstrong is "slightly embarrassed" to find it listed. "Well do our best to develop it in what is an overcrowded market," he says.

Edward Robinson, who plumped for unlisted Tokyo, says it is breeders who lose most through a variety not being recommended. His 18ha (45 acres) at Beech House Farm, Old Bolingbroke, Lincs, did not yield quite as well as expected. But considering it was on light, drought-affected land, he has no complaints about yield. Bushel weight was not too good, he concedes. "It wasnt as heavy as the Bronze we grew two years ago."

Tokyos unique BYMV resistance should prove useful in other varieties in future, he believes.

Choosing winners in the seed race is never easy. Non-recommended Tokyo is a variety "before its time", says Edward Robinson.