Farmer Focus: Spring barleys reviewed as harvest drags on

As harvest has progressed, the weather pattern seems to be getting worse, with frequent rain meaning that to date we have only managed a maximum of three successive whole days combining.

We were keeping up with things remarkably well until recently, when we only managed to cut about 60ha in eight days.

This has given us a chance to dry some brewing barley down to 13% moisture for long-term storage, which is a slow process. It also allowed maltsters to clear some of the barley from store to make room for the last of the barley to come in and the wheat that will remain in store until May.

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We are now well through our main crop of spring barley and can start to draw some conclusions on varietal performance.

Golden Promise has met my expectations for quality and yield. And as it was early, it has all been uplifted from farm. 

Concerto has done better than average, with good malting quality, brackling wasn’t too bad this year.

I would like to think this is down to good management, but other than slight tweaks to growth regulator and fungicide, it has not been treated much differently to last year, so I feel there is a weather factor at play here as well.

The new variety Laureate looks to be yielding well, although the bushel weight is a bit lower and it is certainly later to mature.

Irina, which we are growing for the second season, has again done well, with good yield and quality and exceptional standing ability – so no heads cut off at harvest.

Variety review

With this experience I will discuss varieties with buyers in the coming months to identify the most appropriate variety mix for us to grow next season.

The main thing for me will be whether there is sufficient premium to grow Concerto again, to make its lower yield, –and, crucially, high brackling risk – acceptable.

Grass has continued to grow well throughout the summer and the first finished heifers have recently been sold. 

I hope the current price level holds to provide a decent return and justify the investment required for quality beef production.


Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Farmcare’s 1,610ha business in Aberdeenshire, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across four contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie. The farm has 130 beef cows on land less suitable for crop production.