All change for cultivations
In the second of our series profiling finalists in the Barley-to-Beer competition organised by farmers weekly, DuPont, Warminster Maltings and Pilgrim Ales, Andrew Blake reports from Hants and Lincs
UNDERSOWING crops with grass to control nitrogen contents, using sulphur and high seed rates and revolutionised cultivations characterise spring barley production at Faccombe Estates near Andover, Hants.
Undersowing is a useful way of establishing grass for the 3000 breeding ewes, says Julian Harbottle, assistant estate manager.
Sheep are key fertility builders on the thin Grade 3 chalky loam with flints accounting for half the 920ha (2277 acres) in arable crops and leys.
But Mr Harbottles competition entry, a 12ha (30-acre) field of Alexis after winter barley and stubble turnips, is not undersown. "It is not the highest yielding variety," he admits. But contract merchant Glencore Grain suggested it should do well on the land about 200m (650ft) above sea level. Mean annual rainfall is 910mm (36in).
In 1996 Alexis averaged 5.2t/ha (2.1t/acre) against only 3.7 (1.5t/ acre) for Krona in 1995. Yield potential is key consideration in case samples fail to achieve malting quality.
A good premium for an unspecified market for Alexis and a competitive seed price are added incentives, says Mr Harbottle.
Seed rate of 180kg/ha (144lb/ acre) is heavy, he admits. "That is because we are so high up. We aim for 375seeds a sq m. At least we get a plant and something to manage."
Good consolidation encourages germination. Cultivations have been revolutionised by a Vaderstad spring tine machine with hydraulic levelling boards, he says. "It does the job properly and cheaply."
Hydraulic rams on the coulters of the Overum Tive D3308 grain drill ensure seed is sown as evenly as possible in the stony soil.
Production is a team effort involving independent merchant Bartholomews agronomist David Wright for budgets and inputs choices, stresses Mr Harbottle. "I am not a trained agronomist. Some farmers would be aghast at the degree of flexibility we give Bartholomews. But we employ them as professionals and it works very well."
The dry spring followed by May downpours, with 42mm (1.6in) in 45min on May 17, made disease control especially tricky. An intended Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole) spray at stem elongation (GS30/31) was omitted. "It was so dry at the time," explains Mr Wright.
But by flag leaf (GS39) rhyncho-sporium and other diseases were so threatening that the planned half-dose Decade (fenpropimorph + propiconazole) was increased to full rate.
Sulphur applied with the liquid top dressing is a relatively novel input. "Since we have used it the quality of our samples looks better."
Grain nitrogens recently have ranged from 1.63% to 1.87%. This years entry received 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) of N through a single application of Dalgetys F27S.
Uniform sowing depth is a goal for Julian Harbotle in his quest for quality samples.
• 1997 disease control tricky.
• Cultivations revolutionised.
• Joint husbandry effort.
• Barley undersown with grass.