25 July 1997

East Yorks grower is loyal to Halcyon

In the third of our series of articles profiling finalists in the Barley-to-Beer competition, sponsored by Farmers Weekly, DuPont, Warminster Maltings and Pilgrim Ales, we move north. Andrew Blake and Allan Wright report

NEW malting barley varieties dont win favour with East Yorks grower Nick Baker. He reckons their high yields only come from managing them as feed types and the nine for malting quality is awarded far too easily.

Mr Baker has grown Halcyon successfully for malting since it was first listed in 1985 and is loath to change. Other varieties have been tried at Bainton Heights Farm, Driffield, East Yorks, notably Puffin for six years. "But the figures just dont stack up."

With a three-year average yield of 7.6t/ha (3t/acre) from Halcyon Mr Baker is wary of newer varieties. "A lot of newcomers may yield more when grown as a feed. But grown for malting they wont." Arable Research Centre trials back his views, he says.

Barley accounts for a quarter of the 163ha (403 acres) all arable unit which also grows milling wheat, vining peas and oilseed rape.

Sowing never starts before Sep 20 on the land which runs to about 90m (300ft) above sea level. Drilling sooner risks too leafy a crop going into winter, he explains.

Seed, all C2 generation, comes from nearby Fishers Seeds and Grain on a sale or return basis. "Thats a big advantage as it means we can adjust seed rates up or down as necessary." Target is 320-350 seeds/sq m. "But we use 370 on difficult land or where slugs are likely."

Two seasons without Ferrax seed treatment convinced him of its value in helping crops withstand the winter. "We grew 3t/acre year in year out but not in 1990 and 1991 when the only difference was that we left the Ferrax off."

Nitrogen inputs are based on experience. "The barley is always in the same place in the rotation and our soil types are very consistent. We aim at 115 units/acre and I am sure we wont top 1.7N."

Fungicide policy is to get in early and ring the changes. This years programme is based on a Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole)/Mistral (fenpropimorph) at stem extension (GS30) with Hispor (carbendazim + propiconazole) at first awns visible (GS49). "It is very important to keep the base of the crop clean early on."

NICKBAKER

&#8226 Loath to abandon Halcyon.

&#8226 Seed on sale or return.

&#8226 N inputs by experience.

&#8226 Anti-resistance fungicide policy.

Buyers seeking good quality prefer to see some awns on the grain after combining, says Nick Baker.