Analysis: What the new barley varieties mean for growers

It’s all change this time with the spring barley variety list getting a makeover while two new hybrids offer a step up in yield for the winter feed choices.

Along with the two six-row hybrids, the winter list sees one potential malting type and two new two-row feed varieties added, with four varieties being removed – including all of the conventional six-rows.

The new potential malter, Craft, with a yield of 97%, is not a step change, says Niab Tag cereals specialist Clare Leaman, and still needs to go through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling testing regime.

“It is stiff strawed and early, which are needed in a malting variety. But its early days.”

Bazooka and Belfry, the new six-row hybrids from Syngenta, arrive with very high yields of 107% and 106%, making them an improvement over Volume and putting them way out in front of the pack.

Both also have good untreated yields, together with resistance to barley yellow mosaic virus.

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“These two are a step forward and come at a time when rotations are being widened,” stresses Mrs Leaman.

“Bazooka is taller than Belfry, but they both stand well.”

The new two-row feed varieties, Orwell and Surge, have yields of 102%, putting them on a par with Infinity.

“To differentiate them, Orwell is stiffer strawed than its contemporaries, while Surge has better disease resistance.”

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Spring list

The spring barley list has had a makeover, with 11 varieties being removed.

Of the five new additions, three are under test for brewing and malt distilling, one is a potential grain-distilling type and one is a feed variety.


Two new winter oats, Maestro from Senova and Lineout from RAGT Seeds, offer more yield than the current market leader.

Both bring marketability to the table with good specific weights and kernel contents, as well as moving yield forward. Maestro tops the list at 105%, while Lineout offers 102% – so they are some way ahead of the favourite Mascani on 97%.

“The good news is that they’ve removed the varieties from the list that irritated people,” says Niab Tag’s Clare Leaman. “The pressure will be on now for growers to move on from Mascani.”

Lineout is slightly earlier than Maestro, points out Frontier northern seeds manager David Waite, who believes both varieties are good introductions which should redress the balance now that Rhapsody and Balado have been removed from the list.

“The quality testing of barley varieties is out of sync with the lists,” points out Mrs Leaman.

“So while these look promising, their success will depend on the outcome of quality tests.”

Dual purpose varieties are needed to replace Concerto, she acknowledges, and the three newcomers for this market – Laureate, Sassy and Origin – do take yields forward, especially in the North.

Otherwise, Fairing, which has a yield of 98%, is under test for grain distilling, a market currently met by Belgravia.

“Fairing is earlier and has better rhynchosporium resistance, but Olympus is ahead of it in the assessment system and has more yield.”

The final addition is Ovation, a high-yielding feed variety, with a yield of 107%.

“It’s got plenty to offer, but so have the malting types. Growers will look across the whole list to make their choice of feed variety.”

Seed trade verdict

The winter barley varieties most likely to have an impact on the market next autumn are the two new hybrids, Bazooka and Belfry, and Orwell, the two-row feeder, believes Barry Barker, Agrii’s national seed manager.

“The [Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD)] testing regime means it will be at least another year before there’s any uptake of the malting variety,” he notes.

Hybrid Bazooka already has a chunk of the market, and will build on its good start, he predicts. Chris Guest, Gleadell seed manager, agrees. “Having the hybrids back in the system is good and the yield gap is building. Growers will see at least a 5% yield difference on farm.”

Orwell has got the edge on standing ability over the other barleys, he adds, so it will be useful for the more fertile sites.

David Waite, Frontier’s northern seed manager agrees. “An 8 for standing is heading in the right direction. Unfortunately the other newcomer, Surge, is lacking a bit of yield in the North.”