Harvest 2019: Dorset malt barley shows good yields and quality

Early malting winter barley crops in southern England are yielding well and are showing good quality as  rain in May helped them recover from the spring drought.

Dorset farm manager Martin Ford started cutting 160ha of the specialist malting variety Maris Otter on Monday with his first field yielding 6.75t/ha when the variety can often be down at 5.0-5.5t/ha.

Grain quality is also good, with specific weight up around 72kg/hl at a moisture of 14.5%, and nitrogen levels tested before the combine went into the Otter were low at 1.3-1.4%.

“We are very pleased, and the crops look well with the rain in May just helping them before they died off,” he told Farmers Weekly.

See also: More harvest news and advice

He cut about 35ha on Monday at an average yield of 6.5-6.6t/ha after setting up the farm’s new 41ft header New Holland combine at Charborough Park, near Wareham.

Conditions look a lot better than last year, as Mr Ford says there is a good moisture level in the soil following combining, whereas in 2018 the ground was largely dust and straw.

Malting quality 

The crop is being grown for grain merchant and specialist malting barley buyer Robin Appel, and the group’s director Jonathan Arnold was pleased with the grain quality.

He reports that the first few crops of Maris Otter and Craft cut on the chalklands of Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire are yielding up to 7.0-7.5t/ha with specific weights up at about 68-70kg/hl.

“We are very optimistic so far after our first few growers have started combined. Many are holding off due to the cloudy weather and so we expect next week to be a big week for combining,” he says.

Maris Otter is a favourite among the craft brewers and grain at sub-1.65% nitrogen levels can fetch up to a £60-80/t premium over feed barley. The variety has been grown since the 1960s while Craft is a more modern variety and made the AHDB Recommended List in 2016.