BARLEY - Farmers Weekly

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2 January 1998


WITH two malting barleys makiing up well over two-thirds of the certified seed area in England and Wales, growers may seem to have less choice than ever this season.

But there are good reasons why this is the case, according to NIAB cereals specialist Richard Fenwick.

"I cannot recall a time when such a high percentage was in just two varieties," he says. Chariot and Optic, two of only three varieties fully recommended and Institute of Brewing-approved for the whole of the UK, filled 38% and 31% of the seed area south of the border.

There is a similar two-horse race in Scotland between Chariot (on 37% of the seed area) and Prisma (22%), says the SACs David Cranstoun.

"Optic is head and shoulders above the rest for yield," says Mr Fenwick. "But it is too late for the north, say beyond the Borders."

Regionally recommended Prismas performance, like that of Chariot, is well down on Optic, and it is very susceptible to mildew, he notes. "But the northern maltsters love it."

Chariot is early enough for Scottish harvests and resists mildew well, but is very susceptible to rhynchosporium.

Such a concentration in so few varieties might be considered risky in a more widely grown crop, acknowledges Mr Fenwick. "But there were only about 200,000ha of spring barley in England and Wales last year and about 270,000ha in Scotland. There were 2m hectares of wheat in England alone, which puts it in perspective."

Malter Cooper, the only other fully recommended variety for the whole of the UK, has very short straw, which may account for its apparent lack of takers, he believes. "On lighter droughty soils it is perhaps just a bit too short." Although the fourth most widely grown variety for certified seed, after feeder Hart on 7%, it occupied just 4% of last seasons area.

Riviera, regionally recommended for the north-west, has treated yield potential matching Optic and some malting quality, although it is not IOB-approved. Untreated it is the highest listed yielder.

Delibes and Derkado, both regional recommendations for the north, suit specialist whisky and distilling needs. When treated the former is the second highest yielder on the list, but the latter has the lowest output of all.

Relatively low yielding Dandys long straw is appreciated by livestock growers in the north west and south west, says Mr Fenwick.

Of the newcomers, provisionally recommended malter Landlord will be watched with interest this season, says Dr Cranstoun. With Optic not entirely suitable for the north, Tankard losing its IOB provisional approval tag, and Chariot prone to splitting last harvest, a Prisma companion/replacement would be particularly welcome. "If Landlord does not get the thumbs up we could be vulnerable if people want to move out of Prisma."

Yield ratings of

recommended barleys

Fully recommended (all regions)




Fully recommended (regional)







Provisionally recommended (all regions)


Provisionally recommended (north east)


Becoming outclassed




Its off, but will it malt? Barley quality was a headache for many growers last season.

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29 December 1995


GROWERS with old crop barley in their bins can look forward to the second half of the season with optimism.

Latest figures show that, despite an extra 1m tonnes of output from 1995s harvest (at 6.9m tonnes), exports are running way ahead of last year.

Trade estimates put the amount of business done so far at 850,000t, compared with 577,000t by the same time last year.

According to MAFFs official estimates, that leaves another 1m tonnes to export in the next six months. But traders are convinced that this is an over-estimate.

With the price differential between wheat and barley widening from £5/t at harvest to £8/t in the autumn, there has been a marked increase in the use of barley for domestic animal feed, both by compounders and by home mixers.

As such, the Home-Grown Cereals Authority suggests a barley export surplus of just 750,000t for the rest of the season. With only limited scope for further releases from intervention stores on the Continent, this should find a ready home in markets such as Spain.

Everything therefore points to a tight market by April, especially considering the unusually large tonnage of new crop barley used for feed during this years drought. This will be compounded if the winter continues to be a tough one, with more barley being fed on farm.

Against this background, barley prices are expected to close the gap on wheat again as the season progresses.

Prospects for next harvest are also encouraging, with new crop quoted at £105/t in August, some £5 more than it made this season, reflecting the limited expected carryover.

On the malting front, premiums for the small pockets of old crop available have slipped recently (by about £15/t) as first samples of new crop Australian barley hit the market.

Best quality, low nitrogen Halcyon and Pipkin are still worth £155/t ex-farm and should maintain these levels for the rest of the season. But higher nitrogen Puffin looks vulnerable, especially with France now filling much of the import requirement of the big German maltsters and brewers.

New crop malting barley prospects are not so buoyant. For even though world demand for malt is maintaining its strength, increased plantings in the UK and on the Continent will boost supplies.

Much will depend on quality at harvest, but so far the trade is not rushing to book up new crop at this years premiums.

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