Eye on home & exports
… ear for the maltsters
In our second review of
finalists in the Barley-to-Beer
competition run by Du Pont,
FARMERS WEEKLY and the
HGCA, in association with
Moray Firth Maltings and
Scottish Courage Brewing
Andrew Blake reports from
Lincs and Yorks
CONTRACT growing for a known buyer has never been more important than at present, according to Bill Davey who runs a 283ha (700 acre) family farm at Searby, Barnetby, Lincs.
As a member of the Lingrain co-op, he believes he is well positioned to tap into both home markets and those on the Continent through the deep-water port at Boston. "There is a good manager there with his finger on the pulse. We are nicely placed to fill export opportunities in Holland, Germany and Denmark."
Growers can no longer afford to ignore buyers demands, he reasons. "We have to produce for real markets. "As a vining pea grower he recently had to undertake a LEAF audit as part of his growing contract. "We also intend to be fully signed up with the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme by harvest 1999," he adds.
Choice of malting barley is market orientated, spring-type Optic in its second year following three seasons of Chariot. Standing power on the exposed farm is critical and IOB approval is a must. "We have gone with the flow," he admits. Margins from winter varieties are less attractive on the traditional malting barley wold land, he notes.
Preparation for the spring crop, which usually follows sugar beet, begins with careful root harvesting where possible to avoid soil compaction. "To establish barley properly a good seed-bed is essential," he explains.
With wheat bulb fly a problem in the past he is looking forward to results from Evict (tefluthrin) seed treatment this year which encouraged him to trim sowing rate in the late Feb drilled crop to 150kg/ha (1.2cwt/acre).
Inherently low potassium levels are countered with a 0:18:36 compound fertiliser in the seed-bed. "Historically we have found the increased potash application to be a great benefit," comments Mr Davey.
Mixed messages from soil mineral N testing this season mean he is content to rely on experience to determine top dressing needs. "We followed our rule of thumb and applied 62kg/ha of N at the beginning of April. Our goal is 1.55 in the grain."
In 1995 the Chariot turned in 1.5N with a yield of 6.7t/ha (2.7t/acre). Oddly perhaps yields in 1996 and 97 were about a 1t/ha (0.4t/acre) lower, but N levels somewhat higher.
Pesticide inputs, determined with the help of local Profarma adviser Julian McCormick, are made very much according to budget. "Margins are not what they were," comments Mr Davey. That said he was still prepared to top up his dual fungicide treatment of 0.5litres/ha of Carbate (carbendazim) at the end of April and 0.6litres/ha of Punch C (carbendazim + flusilazole) at the end of May with a further spray should disease pressure merit it.
• Close eye on exports.
• With the flow on varieties.
• Wheat bulb fly watch.
• Rule of thumb N use.
Standing power is vital on Bill Daveys exposed farm at Barnetby, Lincs. Optic spring barley is standing up to this years challenges well.
COST to return ratios and the needs of end users are uppermost in Andrew Revelys mind when he is growing malting barley.
Spring varieties have largely taken over from winter types on the 111ha (275 acres) of arable at Grove House Farm, Helperby which he runs with brother Robert. The mainly sandy loam, with annual rainfall of 760mm (30in), also supports winter wheat, sugar beet and spring beans.
"Over the past few years spring barley has been easier to sell and it suits us more because we can produce better samples," explains Mr Revely.
"Maltsters know what they are looking for so our job is to listen carefully. Breeders will tell you what they want you to hear. But more important is the person who pays the cheque."
However, his grain is not generally grown on contract. "We deal with four or five different merchants, but the feed-back from Campbell and Penty is probably the most important." It was that firm which identified the decline in interest in Derkado, he points out.
Tighter economics are forcing a rethink on inputs. "If we spend £10/ha we need to get that back in the grain," he says. "This year we have had to reduce costs."
That has meant more emphasis on farm-saved seed. This years Chariot from sown C2, cleaned and Raxil (tebuconazole +triazoxide) dressed, saved about £95/t.
"We like to drill as early as possible, normally early March. But this year we sowed on Feb 17 – conditions were too good not to."
At 190kh/ha (1.5cwt/acre) the seed rate was high, he admits. "But we get a lot of problems from rooks.Ideally we look for about 300-320 plants/sq m."
Seed-bed preparation and basal fertiliser use is quite conventional, this years competition crop following sugar beet. Ploughing in December was followed by one power harrow pass, the drill and a single rolling. Main soil nutrients are routinely checked by British Sugar, he notes.
Nitrogen use, for a target grain N of 1.5, in seed-bed and as top-dressing totals 74kg/ha (60 units/acre), though the wet April meant the latter went on rather later than he wished. Nitrogen levels in the past three seasons, with yields ranging from 5.5 to 6.25t/ha (2.2-2.5t/acre) have been 1.6-1.7. Soil mineral N testing might be considered to guide dressings in future, he says. "But we tend to use our experience."
Mr Revely does all his own field walking and 80% of the spraying himself using a conventional Allman machine. Information on pesticides comes from Profarma and CSC Cropcare, but he likes to choose the products himself. "The decision is mine – its my job."
Number one disease is usually mildew followed by rhynchosporium and net blotch. Main defence philosophy is to spray at early tillering with a half dose triazole, this year Sanction (flusilazole). "Using a low rate early limits the need for expensive curative cocktails later on," he reasons.
• Cost-effectiveness caution.
• Spring barley sales edge.
• More farm-saved seed.
• Own field walking.
Listening carefully to what maltsters have to say – Yorks farmer Andrew Revely.