5 February 1999

Brewers toast barley boosted by sea breezes

By Louise Impey

SEA air played a part in the Institute of Brewings 1998 national barley competition. It helped father and son partnership of David and Nick Pull, who grew 61ha (150 acres) of spring crop on their 514ha (1270 acre) unit in Norfolk into the runner-up slot for England and Wales.

Previous winners of the county championship, the Pulls switched to Optic four years ago, replacing Chariot.

"All our spring barley goes in behind sugar beet on the light land," says Nick. "This year we are growing an additional 14ha (35 acres) and I am experimenting by drilling one field in December."

Nick believes the moist sea breezes at Hunstanton prevent the crop from drying out too soon. "We dont seem to suffer from burning off as much as others."

Last years competition crop was drilled on Feb 11 at 180kg/ha (161lb/acre). "We use a combination drill because we find a pneumatic doesnt put spring barley in deep enough."

The seed was Evict (tefluthrin) treated to minimise wheat bulb fly damage. "We also try to roll if the weather permits," he adds.

No base fertiliser is used as this need is covered in the sugar beet. "But nitrogen is very important, as premiums are at stake. We dont split the application. Last year we applied 95kg/ha on Mar 20."

Two fungicide sprays were used, on May 12 and June 19. "The main problem in our spring barley is always rhynchosporium. But the first treatment was a flusilazole/morpholine mix to eradicate brown rust and mildew."

Agronomy advice comes from David Wright of Crop Care who walks the farm twice a month. He recommends foliar magnesium, which went on with the second fungicide.

The crop yielded 5.5t/ha (2,2t/acre) and was bought by Banks Agriculture. "The screenings were minimal and the nitrogen was 1.5.

"We received £90/t. Until recently, prices for malting quality barley have been very good," adds Nick. "In 1995, we got £165/t. At todays levels, we try not to spend too much on the crop.

"We grow it because we know we can get the quality and we find that its early harvest fits in well with our workload. It is combined before the wheat and gives us the opportunity to drill following winter barley early."

"We prefer to be growing for a market. We know we can achieve the right quality and will stick with something we can do well."

&#8226 Outright IOB winner in England and Wales was Willoughby Farms, Alford, Lincs, also with Optic, entered by West Yorks-based Thomas Fawcett & Sons and Gleadall Banks of Gainsborough. &#42


&#8226 Light land crop.

&#8226 Optic after sugar beet.

&#8226 Sea breezes valued.

&#8226 Twin fungicide + mg.

Winner of the Institute of Brewings national malting barley competition in Scotland is Duncan Barr of Upper Dalhousie, Bonnyrigg, Midlothian. A runner-up four years ago, this time his sample of Optic, entered by merchant I M Cowe & Co, took top honours.

Nick Pull prefers his combination drill to a pneumatic for achieving correct sowing depth. This season he has cut his winter barley area in favour of the spring crop, but is also trying December sowing for the first time. He is optimistic that the demand for malting barley will grow.

Advances in spring cabbage

NEW types of spring cabbage are being developed specially for west Cornwall to meet a changing market and possibly enlarge it.

Sue Kennedy of plant breeders Elsoms says Cornwall needs special varieties because it is milder than Lincs but suffers heavy rain, hail and gales and has cold spells in January and February. So spring cabbages for Cornwall need good early vigour.

They also need leaves which can hold their green colour without getting dirty or diseased in adverse conditions and must be able to survive or grow out of a cold spell.

"Traditional varieties can meet these requirements up to a point but are now being criticised by supermarkets for having too much stalk."

Mrs Kennedy hopes the firms breeding programme will meet that criticism.

The head of an ideal variety has a neat, narrow base where it joins the stem, and not too much leaf stalk, she says. But it must also have an upright habit to keep it clear of the soil. Leaves should not be too big or flat (to avoid wind and rain damage).

The variety should not be prone to bolting, nor too quick to heart, but not too open either.

Elsoms varieties so far available include Punch and Excel but a newer one – 1868 – will prove superior, she maintains.

The companys brassica specialist John Constable says supermarkets are taking increasing quantities of spring greens and specifications are much more exacting. But they also offer scope for expanding the market.

Mr Constable believes the future lies with hybrids rather than traditional local, open-pollinated varieties. "If demand for greater uniformity continues, hybrids will supply it, and production methods will adapt, with more sowing/planting dates to give continuity of supply."

Traditional variety Wintergreen is sown in August and harvested between December and March. Hybrids Punch and 1868 need two sowings in August and one in Sep-tember (or three plantings in Sep-tember) to provide three harvests between December and March. &#42

Profit flattened

FLATTENED cereals cost UK growers £74m last year, estimates growth regulator maker BASF.

A survey of distributors and agronomists suggests 16% of the 2m ha (4.9m acres) of winter wheat and 12% of the 0.79m ha (1.9m acres) of barley grown suffered serious lodging, it says. This led to losses of £57m and £17m respectively through reduced yields, missed quality premiums and extra harvesting and drying costs.

In contrast to the £174/ha (£70/acre) and £180/ha (£73/acre) losses, a standard growth regulator insurance sequence would have cost only £31/ha (£12.50/acre), notes the firms Lance Middleton.

Continued wet weather is likely to have checked root development and reduced soil anchorage, making crops more lodging prone later in the season, adds colleague John Peck who advises regulator treatment as soon as conditions and growth stages permit. &#42