7 August 1998

Malting barley crop looks on course to meet quality targets

DESPITE variable yields and quality, maltsters malting barley requirements should be met easily, if spring varieties deliver their early promise, says Roger Clarke, Pauls Malts buyer for southern England and East Anglia.

Most winter barley samples have fewer skinned and split grains than last year, says Mr Clarke, who is based at Wallingford, Oxon. Yields are down, nitrogen levels are too low, and some screenings are unacceptably high. But specific weights are not too bad, averaging about 67kg/hl.

Fanfares promise was realised in the combine tank, with few reports of samples failing to reach malting quality. Its main failing is that nitrogen content is often too low.

"We are seeing levels of about 1.4% when they should be up to 1.65 to 1.7%. And we want spring barley to be about 1.75%," says Mr Clarke.

Regina is averaging about 1.6% while Halcyon and Pipkin are producing nitrogen contents of 1.55%. "We are seeing the better samples come from the lighter land such as chalkland."

Those views are confirmed by SCATs Winchester-based grain trader, Mike Butt. Yields are average to disappointing, ranging from 5t/ha (2t/acre) to 7.4t/ha (3t/acre).

"Fanfare is the seasons star performer; Regina is disappointing, Pipkins nitrogen is too low at 1.3 to 1.5%, while Halcyon is screeny," he explains. But it is difficult to gauge screenings because bad samples may have been screened on farms.

Mr Butt expects a low malting rejection rate for Fanfare and a high one for Halcyon, with Regina recording more failures than passes. So Regina is more likely to be grown for feed next season, he says.

It is a similar story in Kent, according to Grain Harvesters trader, Charles Roberts. The average yield for winter barley malters is about 20% down on last years and nitrogen levels are lower than optimum.

"There is much variability in screenings, with some, mainly Fanfare, only 3 or 4% and others up to 20%. About 75% of samples will be accepted for malting. We are able to dress up many that might otherwise have gone for feed."

Although prices will depend on the mainland Europe market, the strong £ will also have an influence, comments Mr Clarke. Much hangs on the export restitutions given by Brussels. &#42