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How SPP is shaping better barley varieties

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Why making the right decisions around the varieties you choose TODAY, will help deliver the highest crop margins TOMORROW and secure greater sustainability for us all in THE FUTURE

SPP project description:

Nobody needs telling of the enormous challenge global agriculture faces in the next few years and few will need reminding of the critical role UK farmers will play in balancing future food production with environmental requirements.

As one of the most respected and technically proficient agricultural producers in the world, what we do as an industry over the next 10 years will be seen as a benchmark for many other countries as we all pursue more sustainable food production.

Such a future will inevitably involve less reliance on inputs, more thought about rotations, greater clarity on how we can limit the impacts of our actions on the environment and being increasingly aware of the carbon footprint and energy usage of everything we do.

But it’s equally important that we continue to achieve high levels of production, meet the quality demands of consumers and develop resilient farming systems that will meet the food demands of a rising global population.

This is the very essence of SPP.

In these stories we want to show you the critical role genetics will play in this new agriculture and how the decisions we make at KWS on a daily basis will support you in your future challenges.

Importantly, we also want to show you how the varieties KWS offers today can help you maximise your on-farm profitability and play a key role help in helping you progress your own journey to great future sustainability.

SPP is all about arming producers with the genetics they need for the future and with aphid-borne viruses increasingly difficult to control, KWS Feeris’ tried and tested BYDV tolerance will be a real benefit to many, says KWS technical specialist Olivia Potter.

KWS Feeris – key features

  • Strong yield, particularly in the West
  • BYDV tolerance as part of a solid agronomic package
  • Exceptional consistency across very different growing years
  • Good quality grain with high specific weight

KWS Feeris brings the best of conventional 6-row winter barley yields to the 2022/23 AHDB Recommended List with the additional benefits of BYDV tolerance and strong overall disease resistance, she explains.

“Whilst yield is usually the topic that excites growers the most, some of the biggest advances are now in the shape of crop functionality and resilience to cope with increasingly variable growing conditions. The good news about KWS Feeris is that it brings new levels of disease resistance to winter barleys without compromising yields and that is really a first.

“Sitting at 103% of control yield for the UK as a whole, it performs particularly well in the west of the country where it produces 105% of controls, putting it in touching distance of hybrid performance levels.

“Furthermore, these yields have been delivered with exceptional consistency over the very contrasting seasons between 2019 and 2021, even on heavy soils.”

In addition to BYDV tolerance and BYMV resistance, KWS Feeris stacks up very well with other 6-row winter barleys in terms of overall agronomic features, she adds.

“This is borne out by an untreated yield 84% of control with KWS Feeris getting 6s for both rhynchosporium and net blotch. Although it is reasonably tall-strawed at 95cm, it’s a good 5 – 10cm shorter than many commercial hybrid 6-rows and its stiff straw will be of benefit to many growers, especially those in prevalent blackgrass situations.”

“KWS Feeris has similar maturity to KWS Orwell and at harvest will deliver good quality grain with a specific weight of 69.5kg/hl and very low screenings.

“All in all, KWS Feeris is a very strong variety in its own right but with its BYDV tolerance and BYMV resistance, it’s an excellent risk management tool for barley growers in high pressure hotspots and those looking to push drilling as early as possible.”

UK-wide potential

KWS Tardis is another high yielding barley with strong agronomic properties, she adds.

“KWS Tardis is the highest yielding 2-row winter barley on the new 2022/23 AHDB Recommended List, with a performance that rivals many 6-row hybrid varieties.

“It’s a variety that combines UK-wide yield potential with consistent performance in a wide range of growing conditions achieving a yield of 105% of controls on the new RL – just 2% points behind the highest yielding 6-row hybrid.”

“The variety is particularly strong in the east of the country and performs well on light soils although it is best on heavy ones, where yields are at 109% of controls thanks to its super stem strength.

“Add in an excellent agronomic package, including a 7 for rhynchosporium resistance, a 5 for net blotch resistance and an 8 for lodging resistance, giving KWS Tardis the highest score for these traits combined, and you can see why it’s the new class leader.

“Barley yellow mosaic virus resistance, allied to stiff straw and superb in-field performance, make it a great choice for growers looking for a simple and reliable way to expand their rotations and spread workloads across the farm.”



Spreading the risk across rotations

Adding winter barley to cropping plans can not only help spread risk across rotation, it has significant management benefits to offer growers too, says KWS’ Dominic Spurrier.

These are his key reasons why barley production is so important.

1. Management benefits

For a start, the crop’s late August and early September drilling obviously takes a sizeable chunk out of the main autumn workload and with the last two challenging drilling periods in mind, this can be of real benefit in getting the full portfolio of autumn crops in, he says.

“This advantage extends through to the spring too. Winter barley reaches its optimum timings for spray applications (T0, T1 and T2) some 2-3 weeks before winter wheat so this can also help spread workloads throughout the spring.

“It also helps achieve optimum timings for the main winter wheat crop and with KWS trials showing around 1.0t/ha yield benefit from spraying at the best time agronomically compared to being 10 days late, this has financial as well as workload benefits too.”

2. Allows for vital earlier harvesting

Earlier harvesting is major advantage of winter barley, he adds.

“Not only does this move harvesting operations forward generally, potentially avoiding the worst of the weather at the end of the season, it also brings significant marketing opportunities.

“Being the first of the new season cereals to be harvested there is often a range of diverse homes for the crop depending on region, plus there are usually several off-combine export opportunities to be had.”

3. Facilitates better oilseed rape establishment

With the trend towards earlier drilling of OSR to avoid the worst effects of cabbage stem flea beetle, winter barley provides the perfect entry for the crop, he says.

“Recent KWS work has underlined the importance of hitting the prime early August drilling slot, with trials showing an average 0.5t/ha yield loss when this is missed and sowing delayed by around 10 days.

“With the UK’s increasingly variable autumn conditions, winter barley has an increasingly important role to play in ensuring oilseed rape is drilled at the best time to secure its future viability.”

4. New variety introductions will bring yield steps

Five years of KWS trials have shown winter barley and winter wheat averaging the same 11t/ha yield over the years. Positions swapped but average yields have been the same.

In 2014, for example, wheat yielded over 13t/ha and barley 11.5t/ha and the next year the barley reached nearly 13t/ha and the wheat was below 12t/ha, Dominic Spurrier explains.

“This shows the resilience adding barley into the rotation can make.” 

KWS Tardis – key features

  • Highest yielding 2-row barley on current RL
  • Performance to rival many 6-row hybrids
  • UK wide potential but at its best in the East
  • Excellent agronomic package including BYMV resistance