SOWING A mixture of different barley varieties could improve natural disease resistance and reduce pesticide inputs, say experts.
Scottish Agricultural College trials found a three-way mix of Optic, Chalice and Chariot had a lower level of mildew and rhynchosporium infection than the mean of the three varieties individually.
But there was less benefit of using a mix on leaf spotting and ramularia, the trials found.
Other mix trials have found up to a 15% yield benefit from winter barley mixes and 5% extra from spring-sown mixes, said SAC cereals specialist, Steve Hoad.
However, end-user concerns over the quality and performance of mixed variety crops mean their use is unlikely to be endorsed by the industry, without further research, he said.
“The main advantage from sowing mixes is stability of yield and quality across the crop,” added the Scottish Crop Research Institute’s Adrian Newton.
Mixed crops are less likely to suffer from disease epidemics and up to a 50% reduction in disease incidence can be achieved, he noted.
“At the moment maltsters only tend to want one variety, but our trials have proved that nearly all the arguments against using mixes are actually not a problem.”