Barley blends beat Humberside blues

25 September 1998

Barley blends beat Humberside blues

THREE-WAY winter barley blends have been more rewarding than single varieties on Humberside farms this harvest.

Before harvest independent consultant Simon Senior expected low specific weight might make this the last year for blends of six- and two-row types for the farmers he advises. In the event, blends provided an insurance in the roller- coaster weather.

Yields were maintained at saleable specific weight while potentially higher quality two-row types yielded less. "When there is no premium above 63.5 kg/hl, our gross margin analysis shows that the yield of a six-row combined with the better specific weights of two-rows gives a saleable, profitable sample, even though you dont save on variable costs," says Mr Senior.

"Selecting three varieties with even harvest maturity and good performance from at least two of them has given consistent results over 13 years," he adds. "This year, 36% of our barley area was in blends and it may be more next season."

A blend of Lagune, Pastoral and Gleam drilled between Sep 20 and 30 yielded 8.1t/ha (3.25 t/acre) compared to 9t/ha (3.63 t/acre) in 1997 for Richard Wastling of Thirtlebury Grange, Coniston. Of 500t harvested only three loads were below 64kg/hl.

"The awns on the six-rows mean the combine drum needs to be set a bit tighter and faster to get a sample without admixture," notes Mr Wastling. Such care gave him a sample that meets 63.5 kg/hl for export from nearby docks or 62 kg/hl for intervention.

Potential blend growers must plan ahead, says seed merchant and grower Stuart Saunt of Burstwick. "To ensure a suitably-dressed and uniformly-blended sample with an even flow through the drill you must order early. Otherwise the extra time needed to blend pre-dressed seed makes life difficult for the merchant." &#42

1998 Winter barley performance*

Yield Value Variable costs Gross Margin

t/ha £/ha £/ha £/ha

3-way blends 8.16 780 195 585

Fighter 7.25 720 191 529

Hanna 7.12 712 200 511

Regina 5.46 679 182 497

Muscat 6.92 698 213 485

Lagune 6.42 665 190 475

Intro 4.94 568 207 361

* Source: J K Senior & Sons

A blend of Lagune, Gleam and Pastoral did well for Humbs farmer Richard Wastling (left)this year. Trials by Simon Senior show clear yield and quality benefits.

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