North: Why Winter Barley?

What a difference a volcano makes! Not a 70s Motown classic, but a brief dose of reality. It would appear that this international crisis should have little impact on mainstream arable farming, but the staggering losses to Kenyan and Israeli growers reiterates the vulnerability of world food production. We work in a much over looked and unloved industry – ignore it at your peril politicians!

Soap box dismounted and getting back to cropping issues. Awful sums up the overall appearance of crops! Oilseed rape bucks the trend by appearing average. Recent rugby cultural exchanges to Belgium and Wales reveal a similar state of affairs across the UK and the Low countries, with the harsh winter leaving all crops looking dog eared.The recent HGCA growth stage guide is another excellent publication and although crops have not enjoyed the recent cold weather they are still growing.

Dissection of wheat plants reveals T1 timing will be this weekend for many crops. With so many rust prone varieties in the ground spray interval will be a key factor in ensuring full crop protection.


The protracted cold dry spell is helping suppress disease levels, but there will be no reduction in fungicide rates. Having preached to my clients that a cold winter is likely to trigger more wild oats to grow, I am pleased to say that they have not let me down. Flushes of oats are arriving on mass!

Why oh why do we grow winter barley? OK I know, but walking around my miserable crops and knowing a harvest price of not much more than £80/tonne? Awns will be visible in 10-14 days and the crop will be only 20cm high. With the price of straw currently outstripping the price of barley no late growth regulators are scheduled for application. Winter beans have again suffered from the harsh winter and are only now starting to recover. Some Basagran will have to be used and this will also carry a risk of further crop checks. Looking at this week’s forecast, some much needed rain is on the way.

Leaving on a high note, oil seed rape crops look good and flowering has started. Sclerotinia sprays will be applied from next week. High risk farms receiving a split application and low risk situations a one pass approach.

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