Euro barley offers Scots early start
By Edward Long
NEW spring barley Prestige offers Scottish growers the promise of earlier harvesting and a possible role as the next pan-European malting barley.
Two years ago, Brechin-based Glencore contracted 16ha (40 acres) of the Monsanto (PBIC) variety for seed. This spring, 2000ha (5000 acres) will be devoted to it, with a further 800ha (2000 acres) going into the ground on farms in England.
"We took on Prestige because we saw a huge need for an early maturing spring barley for Scotland and the north of England to plug the gap left after Prisma and Chariot," says Glencores Adrian Fisher.
"Prisma proved particularly popular for its earliness and Prestige appears to be exactly what we need to replace it."
Farmers who grew the variety for seed in Tayside in 2000 and 2001 say it was ready for combining seven to 10 days before Optic, with yields at least as good.
That confirmed the varietys performance in UK National List trials, which also show it to be stif-fer strawed and shorter than Optic and more resistant to disease.
"Prestige will account for 15% of the Scandinavian barley crop this year and its high diastase malt quality in particular is fuelling major overseas malting interest," says Mr Fisher.
Andrew Flux, of British Cereals Exports, believes the variety has good credentials as a Euro barley. "It has been tested and approved by a lot of brewers and maltsters on the Continent, where it appears to have won pan-European acceptance. This opens the door for UK growers to many potential value-added markets."
High diastatic activity also helps when looking to export large tonnages of low nitrogen barley to China, South Africa and South America, says Mr Fisher. Although Prestige does not match Delibes or Maresi, it beats Barke and Optic.
Following national list trials, Prestige is entering Recommended List trials this spring. "The variety performed as well as Optic for yield in our trials and was better for mildew and Rhynchosporium, and is earlier maturing," says SACs David Cranstoun.
Glencore is offering buy-back contracts to generate up to 15,000t of crop this year. *
Grower view from Montrose
Farm manager Brian Alston has grown Prestige for two years on the Eusan Estate, near Montrose. "We grew 40 acres for seed in 2000 and 300 acres last year. It was easy to grow, matured early and yielded at least as well as Optic to give a very bold sample. It was ready to combine at least a week ahead of Optic. On this farm it is vital we get started with the spring barley as soon as possible because it spreads the combine workload and the risk, and allows us to get the straw baled and carted off."