16 August 2002

Spring barley quality passes early scrutiny

By Louise Impey

DESPITE last weeks deluge, spring barley quality has mostly come through unscathed, it seems.

Earlier this week, half the crop was cleared in East Anglia, but barely 10% had been harvested in southern counties, with most crops still not quite ready. A similar situation was reported in Yorks with only a handful of samples seen.

At Camgrains store in Linton, Cambs, 5000t of Optic, more than half of the expected tonnage, is in the bin.

Manager Philip Darke reports germination holding up well. "Our growers are having to cut at much higher moistures than usual, but nitrogens are still good and only 500t has failed on germination."

So far, there is no rising incidence of germination problems and with barley drying faster than wheat he is hopeful for the rest. "Any quality concerns at this stage are more with milling wheat which holds water in the ear."

Cutting barley at 25% moisture is OK, says Mr Darke. "But be very gentle with the drier. If you are not prepared to cut it wet, you wont make the grade this year."

On John Lathams farm near Saxmundham, on the Suffolk coast, just over 40ha (100 acres) of Optic produced a pleasing result. "We have got 100% germination, nitrogen at 1.7-1.85 and 3% screenings. It will make malting quality.

"But we have not had as much rain as other places and this is very light land."

Grainfarmers Southampton-based Michael Butt estimates only 10-15% of spring barley in the south has been harvested. "Some growers have not even done their winter barley."

Spring samples indicate nitrogens wont be a big problem. "They are a bit higher than last year, but are OK. We have also seen reasonable sized grains and acceptable retentions."

But heavy rain has taken the bloom off crops, he warns. "We will be keeping a wary eye out for fusarium from now on. It is not going to be a bonanza year."

At Hampshire Grain, 600t was in store by Monday, out of an expected 7000t, says store manager Michael Clay. "Chariot is not bad, with low nitrogens and low screenings. Optic is more variable, thinnish and with nitrogens all over the place.

"But one or two loads do not make a trend. And quality is not under threat from the weather yet, as most crops have not been fit."

That is echoed by farm manager Trevor Brown at Park Farm, near Winchester. "We would not have started spring barley until this weekend anyway. So a delay of one or two days is not a concern."

Wiltshire Grains Nick Brown also has no particular anxieties about quality. On Monday a few combines were cutting at 24% moisture in the area but only 200t had been delivered to the store out of an anticipated 7000t.

"Of the little bit we have seen, the picture is the same as winter barley. "It is down to individual fields and microclimate." &#42

SPRING BARLEY STARTERS

&#8226 Quality survived so far.

&#8226 South crops only just fit.

&#8226 E Anglia 50% cleared by Tues.

&#8226 Most should malt.