24 July 1998


Regional advice to guide variety choice is vital to make the

most of what is available. Here, Andrew Blake and

Allan Wright consider options for the more demanding

conditions found in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Regional advice to guide variety choice is vital to make the

most of what is available. Here, Andrew Blake and

Allan Wright consider options for the more demanding

conditions found in Scotland and Northern Ireland

CAUTION about a rush into new barleys, as you were for wheat, a promising new oat, and niggling doubts about hybrid oilseed rapes. That sums up the advice from Scottish Agricultural College experts on winter varieties for the coming autumn.

"Maltsters have been showing considerable interest in the newer winter barley varieties Melanie and Regina. But maltsters are middle men and the response from end users has been less encouraging," says the SACs David Cranstoun.

"Broadly speaking, the distillers cannot get as much spirit out of either Melanie or Regina as they do from the spring variety Chariot. The exception would be winter crops of very low nitrogen," he says.

The result is a forecast that interest in winter malting barley is going to be limited, although Dr Cranstoun thinks supply pressure or attractive pricing may generate some distiller demand.

"What it means is that farmers should only consider growing and managing those varieties for malting if they are fairly certain of an outlet."

However, he points out that Regina is competitive as a feed variety. "It has stiff straw, but farmers should remember that it is late ripening and, if it is to be followed by winter oilseed rape, the window for sowing may be compressed."

Of the other two-row feed varieties, he recommends Pastoral. Replacements are being sought, but it will be some time before sufficient quantities of C2 seed are available he says. The same will be true of Angela, a 6-row barley. In time, it could challenge Manitou and Muskat, he believes.

Turning to winter wheat choices, Dr Cranstoun has the simple advice. "Stay as you were." That means Riband continuing to dominate with about three quarters of the Scottish crop.

"Consort is likely to claim a little more market share where there is a milling outlet. And there will be an increase in Madrigal because of its resistance to Septoria. But its unlikely that we will see any major switch to quality wheats, because the premium has been disappointing and it appears that there will be plenty of quality wheat grown in England, Dr Cranstoun comments.

He likens growing Riband to being in the rain with a raised umbrella. "It may be an expensive umbrella but at least you know you are safe."

Pointing to a potential loss of £100/ha if a farmer gets the agronomy wrong with a new variety, Dr Cranstoun says that, even at todays prices, the inbuilt assurances with Riband will continue to make it the leading choice.

"We would like to see a replacement which lowers growing costs and there are one or two challengers in the pipeline. Buchan is stiffer and has Septoria resistance. So has Claire but the straw is weaker. But it is unlikely we will see any significant quantity of these grains until 2000 at the earliest."

The popularity of winter oats in Scotland has grown from nothing to a third of the total oat crop of 20,000ha in the past 15 years. Gerald has been the standard variety but Dr Cranstoun forecasts that Jalna will claim increasing interest because of the 6% extra yield it has shown in the first few trials.

Dr Kerr Walker, SAC head of agronomy and oilseeds expert, says hybrids will continue to claim a large share of the winter crop in northern Britain.

"Synergy is the most popular with 40% of hybrid plantings. The crops have pollinated well and there is good pod formation. There is no reason to think it will not perform. But I would still caution against a wholesale switch to Synergy. There have to be niggling doubts about the pollination of this composite hybrid in field conditions."

Of the other hybrids, he points to Artus and Pronto. These fully restored hybrids have no pollination worries but seed supplies are very limited. Dr Walker prefers Pronto because of its straw stiffness but says Artus has better light leaf spot resistance.

"Farmers should not forget the best of the conventional varieties like Herald and Madrigal. They are only a few points behind the hybrids on yield and the saving on seed cost can leave them with a higher gross margin," he notes.

Herald in particular is seen as having a lot going for it with short, stiff straw and good light leaf spot resistance.