Get the seed rate right for successful spring barley

Spring barley growers need to focus on getting their seed rates right for quick crop emergence and top yields this coming spring.

The area of spring barley is set to rise 10% this season, according to an AHDB Early Bird survey, largely as the oilseed rape area has fallen, so getting this bigger crop off to a good start will be key.

Leading barley breeder Limagrain says a standard seed rate of 350 seeds/sq m appears to be the most cost-effective when seed-beds and growing conditions are good.

See also: Swing to spring cropping after rapeseed area falls

The group, which has bred varieties like Concerto, Odyssey and Westminster, has conducted trials in Norfolk and Scotland over the last two years looking at different seed rates and varieties.

“These two seasons were very different with regards to establishment and disease pressure – however, despite this, a rate of 350 seeds/sq m would still appear to be correct,” says Ron Granger, the group’s UK arable technical manager.

He adds that seed rates for spring barley are not an exact science and will need adjusting depending on factors such as drilling date, tillering capacity and soil conditions.

This standard 350 seeds/sq m seed rate in the 2014 and 2015 season produced the best specific weight for the majority of the varieties in the group’s trial, Mr Granger adds.

Dick Neale, technical manager at agronomy and distribution group Hutchinson, advises growers not to be tempted to drill too early this spring after the mild winter.

“For any spring crop, the key is not to drill too early. Be patient and wait for soils to warm up and dry out enough for a good seed-bed and for crops to germinate and grow ahead of any emerging weeds,” he says.

Mr Neale points out that the weeds such as blackgrass germinate as soon as soil is moved, so ideally the first and only cultivation should be with the drill.

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