Future none too bright for malting barley
In the seventh article in our series profiling farmers
weeklys 1998 barometer farms Allan Wright visits our
Scottish representative near Auchterarder, Perthshire
MAXIMISING crop yield is this years priority for Perthshire farmer Eric Haggart. His answer to reduced combinable crop prices has not been to cut inputs, but to aim for extra yield as the safest backstop.
Arable crops cover two-thirds of the 223ha (550-acre) farm at Bailielands Farm, Auchterarder. The rest supports beef cattle and sheep. All the work is done by Mr Haggart and his 25-year-old son, Adam.
Mr Haggart is pessimistic about the future of malting barley. "Major maltsters are up for sale, there are next to no contracts being offered, the premium is likely to be low and I really worry about the future of malting barley in Scotland.
"This is a good farm for malting barley. But last year was a difficult growing season and the Prisma was high in nitrogen, low on quality, and – after deductions – I was down at feed price, with a yield penalty of a tonne an acre."
This year he is switching to Meresi. "I have a buy-back agreement, but without a fixed price. If it suits the niche market for high N malting barley so much the better. But at least I can look forward to yields of about 7.4t/ha or 3t/acre. Last year I was struggling to get 2t/acre from Prisma."
About 34ha (82 acres) of Maresi will be sown at a rate of 185kg/ha, with 370kg/ha (6 bags/acre) of a 13:13:21 compound fertiliser in the seed-bed. Top dressing is according to need, the three fields following wheat, turnips and grass.
The 30ha (76 acres) of winter barley is all Fanfare from home-saved seed, dressed and treated with tebuconazole + triazoxide (Raxil S) and drilled at 200kg/ha for a cost of £32.40/ha. The crop is in three fields, sown on Sep 6, 16 and 20.
"The first one is the only one to have needed a fungicide. The last-sown was the heaviest land and the crop has not tillered as well. However, the early field may be too far forward. I would worry about winter kill if we had snow lying for any length of time," says Mr Haggart.
There was a base dressing of 125kg/ha (2 bags/acre) of a 17:17:17 compound. A post-emergence, ipu-based herbicide tank mix was applied by Airtec low volume sprayer on Oct 25.
Four days later a fungicide mix of 300ml/ha of tebuconazole + triadimenol (Silvacur) and 500ml/ha of fenpropimorph (Mistral) was applied to the earliest field to give broad protection.
All the fields received 2kg/ha of manganese. "It is a must for every cereal crop in this part of the world," says Mr Haggart who walks his own crops, often with local Dalgety man Willie Innes who provides agronomic advice.
"I am quite relaxed about taking all my advice from a commercial company. I have dealt with them for many years and we have a good working relationship," he says.
The Fanfare is being grown for the feed market. Although recommended for malting, it has hit dormancy problems and Mr Haggart is tired of growing a quality crop and then finding no market for it. "This time it is yield first and malting quality second. We aim to get 7.5t/ha rather than the six we might have to settle for if we start worrying about nitrogen content," he says.
The 20ha (50 acres) of wheat is split equally between Madrigal and Riband. It was all drilled into three fields in the last week of September the Madrigal sown at 210kg/ha and the Riband at just 190kg/ha compared with 220-250kg/ha in previous years.
"It is not to save money, although that is welcome, but to get improved tillering and better quality grain without sacrificing final yield," he says.
A post-emergence, IPU-based herbicide mix was applied at the end of October. But slug pellets had to be applied on Oct 6, a mix of 2kg/ha of methiocarb (Exit) and 5kg/ha of metaldehyde (Optimol) was bulked with 13kg/ha of a 0:20:30 fertiliser and broadcast.
"The weather was so mild I had to go back into one field just before Christmas with another slug treatment," says Mr Haggart.
His wheat is all grown for the feed market and sold spot, because storage facilities are not suitable for keeping any bulk of grain. "We are planning to build a store from second-hand material," he says.
Slug pellets were also applied to 20ha of Synergy and 6.5ha of Pronto winter rape which were drilled in mid-August at 3.5kg/ha. Both fields were sprayed with metazachlor (Butisan S) herbicide at 1.2 litres/ha at the three to five-leaf stage.
Nitrogen is applied as the crop and conditions dictate. Mr Haggart has been tempted by £82/t Russian product. "We had it once before and I vowed never again, because of the difficulty spreading. But the differential of £20/t is too much to ignore," he says.
The final arable crop is 33ha (82 acres) of Maskot spring rape which will be sown as early in April as possible and at 6kg/ha compared with 5.5 last year. "We struggled a bit with plant numbers last time," says Mr Haggart. Slug pellets will be a must and will be broadcast before emergence to prevent damage below the soil.
Trifluralin (Treflan) pre-emergence herbicide will also be used. "We missed one field last year and there was a 50% yield penalty. People say the crop gets above the weeds, but there is definitely a big yield loss," says Mr Haggart. *
Light leaf spot has been troublesome in winter rape, needing timely sprays this winter, says Scottish barometer farmer Eric Haggart.
Malting barleys future in Scotland is a real worry for Eric Haggart, Low premiums, few contracts and maltings for sale spell a gloomy future. Feed looks a better bet.
• 223ha (550 acre) mixed farm.
• Switching barley varieties.
• Soils are – sandy loam to deep loam, plus some heavier clay.
• Dalgety agronomy advice.
ave yield t/ha
w wheat 6.0+
w barley* 6.0+
s barley <5.0
w rape not grown 97
s rape 1.7