Sustainably grown barley may be way forward, says Andy Barr

I will start harvesting winter barley on sand this week and estimate a 15% yield reduction.

I know I can’t change the weather, but this season I shall at least attempt to do something about its effect on my crops by experimenting with early drilling, seed treatments and fertiliser in the row with my new Dale Eco-Drill.

Hopefully, no-tilling will allow me to leave a good layer of trash on the surface to keep moisture in the soil, a tactic I’ve seen work well in Argentina. One slight problem with this cunning plan will be actually producing the trash this year with short crops.

Perhaps we could also use the Cultan fertiliser technique I saw in Germany recently, which could get around the problem of ammonium nitrate prills sitting on the surface for weeks. For this method, liquid ammonium sulphate is injected into the soil and crop roots grow to the resulting fertiliser “depots”.

The cover crop mixes we saw at the German DSV site and green/food waste compost, which I have just learnt more about at an environment council meeting, may also help. The EU’s zero waste to landfill initiative must be the way forward, but can we please sort out the legislation so that sensible ideas are allowed to happen in practice.

I’m woefully overdrawn in my Brownie points account with my wife after another trip, this time to the Grolsch maltings in Holland, with GH Grain. They want to source sustainably produced barley and, with many others making similar noises, I wonder if this will be the future for human consumption crops?

Naturally, it would be preferable to win a premium for such production rather than it becoming a compulsory voluntary process. Apologies to Grolsch regarding the free bar, we were merely investigating the sustainability of increased beer intake.

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