Switch to hybrid barley can save on fertiliser, trial shows

Opting for a hybrid barley variety instead of a conventional type could help farmers reduce their use of expensive nitrogen fertiliser in 2022-23, which is set to be a high-cost season.

New independent research has shown that hybrid barley receiving a reduced dose of nitrogen fertiliser can deliver similar yields to conventional winter barley with a higher, standard dose.

The research conducted by Adas compared two hybrid barley varieties with two conventional two-row winter feed barley varieties at N doses from 0 to 360kg/ha.

See also: Why last year’s winter barleys will appeal this autumn

The work formed part of a larger programme of Syngenta evaluations into hybrid barley’s benefits that may help growers respond to sustainability challenges.

This included high fertiliser prices, a need to manage grassweeds sustainably, and a requirement to produce yields reliably for food security.

Data analysis

Adas project director Sarah Kendall pointed to the N response experiment findings. 

She said at 200kg N/ha – a dose potentially used if pushing winter feed barley for yield – both hybrids significantly outyielded their conventional counterparts.

They produced 9.92t/ha and 9.71t/ha versus 8.19t/ha and 8.13t/ha for the conventional varieties, respectively.

Dose response curves revealed a similar trend at a more standard 180kg N/ha, but what was also relevant was the economic optimum N rate for the varieties, Dr Kendall added.

“Using a standard breakeven ratio for N fertiliser of 5:1, the data analysis revealed the hybrids required in the region of 65kg/ha less N to achieve a similar yield to one of the conventional varieties,” said Dr Kendall.

“The second conventional variety had an economic optimum N rate lower than the hybrids, but yielded around 1t/ha less.

“These results should provide a level of confidence to growers who are looking to make modest reductions in their N rates with hybrid barley, in response to cost and sustainability pressures.”

Across a wide range of N rates in the trial, the hybrids also showed improved N utilisation efficiency over the conventional varieties, reported Dr Kendall.

This indicates that for the same amount of N taken up by the crop, the hybrids produced more yield.

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