27 February 1998

HIGH HONOURS IN A LOW YEAR

Winning top honours in the Institute of Brewings annual

malting barley competition is no mean feat. Achieving the

accolade in a year of miserable malting results is even more

impressive. Jeremy Hunt and Allan Wright examine the

strategies of the winners in England and Wales, and Scotland

BANFFSHIRE farmer Bill Innes has the distinction of being the only man to win the Scottish malting barley competition twice. He has done it in successive years and with different varieties, Prisma in 1996 and Chariot last harvest.

"I have told the IoB that if I win this year, I should be allowed to keep the trophy," says Mr Innes who farms 95ha (235 acres) at Beechbank, Fordyce, in partnership with his wife, Ann, and son, Ronald.

"Ronald does most of the work nowadays – I have had two hip replacement operations and have to take things easy," says the man who also runs cattle fattening and seed potato enterprises.

Although Mr Innes is no longer fit for some of the manual work, he still plans the growing of 65ha (160 acres) of spring barley. "We aim for a quality product and grow it specifically for the malting trade. We find that the premiums more than cover any yield reduction," he says.

"Last year we had bonuses of almost £10/t for low nitrogen and low screenings. That took the price to £90/t while a lot of barley in this area was making £60-70/t."

He is loath to give away all his secrets, but insists the old way of ploughing before Christmas is essential to let winter weather break the clay loam soil down.

Cultivation and seeding is then done with a one-pass machine. Seeding rate is 228kg/ha (203lbs/acre) for Prisma and 247kg/ha (220lbs/acre) for Chariot.

Weather permitting, sowing is in mid-March, with 300kg/ha (2.4cwt/acre) of a 20:13:13 compound going in the seed-bed. That is supplemented by 185kg/ha (1.5cwt/acre) of a 16:15:15 plus sulphur fertiliser at the first leaf stage.

"That is the last of the fertiliser until ear emergence, when we apply a little foliar feeding. Thats one of my little secrets. I am convinced it helps give a strong, bold sample," says Mr Innes.

A herbicide is applied in mid-May followed by specific control for wild oats in the first week of June. Little and often is the Innes way of disease control, with particular attention to mildew in the fields of Prisma.

Harvest last year was in the second week of August with yields around 5t/ha (2t/acre) and with Chariot slightly outyielding Prisma. The grain is cleaned and dried through the farms own mobile drier.

"The maltsters dont like mobile driers, but they work well enough if you take things slowly and dont turn the heat too high," says Mr Innes.

BANFF BARLEY BARON

&#8226 IoB Malting Barley Award winner in Scotland.

&#8226 5t/ha Chariot spring barley.

&#8226 Winter ploughing, foliar feeding and little and often disease control keys.

Key to Bill Innes IoB success is winter ploughing and foliar feeding to make the most of spring-sown malting barley in Banffshire.