21 December 2001

Spring barley worth a try even on strong ground

By Andrew Swallow

SPRING barley could substantially boost the profit of the rotation, even on farms not traditionally considered as suitable for malting barley.

That was the message of experts gathered for the launch of New Farm Crops potential malting variety Cellar last week.

"Gross margins are starting to challenge winter wheat," says Brown & Cos Simon Mountjoy. "But more importantly, growers must look at the cost/t to grow it. That is where it really starts to score."

By spreading workload it can allow growers to substantially reduce fixed costs producing a much better profit/t, he suggests (see table).

To take advantage of that will need a change in mindset on some farms, he stresses.

Many growers on stronger ground still rule the crop out, because they could not produce the 1.4% nitrogen sample required for traditional malting markets.

But with most of the market now demanding 1.65-1.85% nitrogen to meet the burgeoning world demand for lager malt, plus higher yield potential varieties and strobilurin chemistry, they could be growing spring malting barley, he says.

"These new spring cropping techniques can solve the constraints of machinery and labour that many farms are now coming up against." In an extreme that could mean moving to continuous spring barley cropping, or perhaps a winter wheat, spring barley and set-aside rotation, he says.


Winter wheat Spring barley

Output 9.3t/ha at £75/t = 697 6.9t/ha at £80/t = 544

Income (inc aid) 904 764

Var costs 247 156

GM (inc aid) 657 608

Labour/power 309 210

Total costs* 835 638

Profit/ha 70 90

*Includes £37/ha property, £37/ha other, £99/ha rent and finance (£106 for wheat) and £99/ha drawings.

Source: Brown & Co.

Cellar goes commercial

Cellar spring barley was provisionally placed on the Recommended List last year, but this is the first year the seed has been available commercially. "There is enough for a 10% market share, so there should be plenty of seed about," says New Farm Crops Gary Mills Thomas. It has provisional IOB approval for both England and Scotland and offers 3% extra yield and earlier maturity than Optic.

"Maturity is similar to Chariot," adds colleague Simon Phillips. "In Scotland that would be 4-5 days earlier than Optic, or 2-3 days in England."