9 February 1996

Cornwalls first taste of victory

A Cornish grower took first prize at the recent Institute of Brewing national malting barley awards in London. Robert Harris finds out how he grew the top crop

CORNWALL to most people means pasties, icecream and sandy beaches. But not malting barley – until now.

This years Institute of Brewing national malting barley champion, Philip Pryor, farms in partnership with his father and brother at F G Pryor and Sons Collwyn Farm, Perranwell Station, Truro, chalking up the countys first win.

His sample of Alexis, jointly entered by Truro-based Mi-Grains and Banks Doltons of Newbury, was described by judging chairman Michael Banks as "exceptional" for the year. Mr Pryor grew 30ha (75 acres) of malting barley last year, mostly Alexis.

The winning sample was grown on deep, medium loam soils on three fields, following potatoes or cabbage. These were ploughed in mid-February, and left to weather until the end of March. "Barley takes second place to potatoes and was drilled quite late."

Seed was drilled at 169kg/ha (1.3cwt/acre) and rolled in. Timely rain speeded emergence. Fields after potatoes received 56kg/ha (45 units/acre) each of N, P and K, the one after cabbage a third less.

"Both potatoes and cabbages leave the soil fertile, so I tend to err on the side of caution. I can put more fertiliser on if the crop looks hungry at tillering," he says.

Chickweed and charlock were controlled near the end of tillering with Banlene Plus (dicamba + MCPA + mecoprop). He followed the advice of Cornwall Farmers Andrew Bolton and added three-quarter rate Radar (propiconazole) and full rate Carbate (carbendazim) to keep disease at bay.

"Rhynchosporium is our biggest problem, especially in a susceptible variety like Alexis. We try to keep it out at all costs," says Mr Pryor.

Despite the drought and a further half-rate Radar on the flag leaf, disease appeared in the crop as awns appeared. Mr Pryor oversprayed with full rate Sportak Alpha (carbendazim + prochloraz). Although "expensive", it cleaned the crop well.

The high levels of organic matter ploughed under in February helped the crop make the most of scarce rain and heavy dews. Combining on August 16 revealed a yield of over 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) at 16.5% moisture, says Mr Pryor. &#42

&#8226 140ha (345 acres).

&#8226 Malting barley, potatoes, brassicas, grass.

&#8226 120 beef cattle.

&#8226 Deep, medium loam soils.

&#8226 Variety -Alexis

&#8226 Nitrogen -1.47%

&#8226 Screenings -0.5%

&#8226 Specific weight -70kg/hl