Barley & wheat choice
WITH only five of the 14 spring barley varieties on the UK list recommended for all areas, and only three of those fully recommended, choice is becoming increasingly regional.
"That is mainly because there are distinct differences in what growers want in terms of field characters," says NIABs Richard Fenwick. "In the north, for example, earliness is very important."
Of varieties fully recommended for all regions Optic, introduced two years ago, set a high standard for yield and remains highest rated at 106 in treated trials. "But it is really too late for the north."
Chariot accounted for nearly a third of the UK seed area and remains a useful variety with Institute of Brewing approval. But its relatively low yield (98), susceptibility to rhynchosporium and grain splitting in the north suggest it will be superseded by other varieties before long, says Mr Fenwick.
Cooper (102) has solid all-round disease resistance. "It is a good southern variety, but it is a little late for the north."
Of the regional recommendations Prisma, with the same yield rating as Chariot, had the third largest share (11.1%) of the total UK seed area. But the figure is misleading – it occupied only 0.6% of that for England and Wales. Its big, bold grain is liked by northern maltsters, but little is malted in the south, says Mr Fenwick. "It is also very susceptible to mildew."
Riviera (104), for the north-west, has some malting quality but no IOB approval. But as a feed it clearly outyields Hart (98) and Dandy (95), two older types favoured by livestock farmers.
"Hart is still very popular in the west because it has excellent mildew resistance and plenty of straw." Dandy is better against rhynchosporium and is even taller. However, it is not always true that tall straw equals lots of straw, although that tends to be farmers perception," says Mr Fenwick.
Alexis, IOB-approved mainly for the south, has been popular and remains a useful variety, with 7.6% of the 1996 English and Welsh seed area. "But with a yield rating of 96 it is beginning to lose out to some higher yielders."
Delibes (102) has relatively high output. But its main attribute is its specialist quality for northern grain whisky producers. "Its grain has high diastatic power, which helps break down wheat starch," he explains.
Derkado, on 95 joint-lowest yielding listed variety, is another meeting specific northern market needs. "Its low glycosidic nitriles are very important for the distilling industry." Rhynchosporium resistance is poor.
Felicie (98) is a stock feed type, much like Hart and Dandy, for the south-west and north-west. "It is good, but I do not think we shall see much of it – farmers there are already growing the other two."
Seed of two newer introductions is likely to be quite limited. Tankard (99), provisionally IOB approved for the north-east after joining the list last year, resists mildew well but is weak against rhynchosporium.
Landlord (101), this years newcomer provisionally recommended for all regions, has resisted splitting better than Chariot and has better rhynchosporium resistance than Tankard. Its combination of mildew and rhynchosporium defences is matched only by Dandy, but the IOB has yet to confirm its apparently top malting quality.
The feed type Tyne (98), with the lowest listed standing power, is officially becoming outclassed, despite being the earliest recommended variety.
For growers looking beyond the list, there were 47 other varieties certified for seed last harvest, the highest number of any combinable spring crop. "But they really need not consider them," says Mr Fenwick.
Malting quality is the target for many spring barley growers but added value contracted break crops could prove equally rewarding.
The pie charts in this Seeds Special show the areas approved for certification in the UK from harvest 1996. Farm-saved and imported seed may paint a different picture. Source: NIAB, SASA and DANI