6 September 2002

Scots mark Optic down with trials not yet complete

SCOTTISH growers are still at least a week away from finding out which spring barley varieties are winners and losers in official SAC trials. But initial grower responses mark Optic down.

Across the whole UK Tavern is having a good year in HGCA recommended list trials, yielding 2% ahead of its four-year average and 4% behind top yielding candidate Cocktail. Pewter is doing less well, 3% down on average, while Optic is up 1%.

"Optic looks set to retain its dominant position, but there will be increasing interest in Cellar, which has held steady at 102% of control yields," says NIABs Richard Fenwick.

Amongst Scottish growers unimpressed with Optics on-farm harvest results is Alan Stewart of Stracathro & Careston Estate. Screenings in the malting variety vary from 8-39% on the Angus unit. "Local merchants report over 50% in extreme cases."

Chalice has done well at 9% and Prestige 10.5%. "Im reasonably happy with that given the year weve had," he adds.

Yields are tinged with disappointment. "Chalice and Prestige did 2.25t/acre against rolling averages of 2.5t/acre. Ive already had these away on contract without problems. However, Optic gives cause for concern – Im blending the best with the worst to limit penalties."

Bucking the trend for poor Optic results Gordon Rennie recorded a yield of 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) with 7-12% screenings at Stenton Farm, St Monans, Fife – slightly over the units rolling average. March sowing was into good conditions and a comprehensive spray programme was used.

Indeed SACs Fiona Burnett says spray cuts may be to blame for poorer yields elsewhere. "Those who cut back on the early sprays have paid the price."

Although SACs David Cranstoun is reserving comment on specific variety results until all trial plots have been analysed, Cellar has shown early promise and should be in demand next year, he notes.

Glencore Grains Adrian Fisher says one variety that has done better on screenings so far is Prestige, averaging just 6% on a 2.5mm sieve. "The majority of the Optic is in the mid-teens, 6-7% higher than normal," he notes.

Screenings are also proving less of a problem in Decanter, partly because the high diastase market can make use of the smaller, high nitrogen grain, he adds.

"It seems to have held up with very few failures so far." &#42