Malt barley choice proving tricky for later Scottish areas
CHOOSING a spring malting barley variety for the later areas of Scotland is becoming quite a problem, according to an Aberdeen-based agronomist.
"In the malting barley market there is quite a north/south divide looming," says John Hughes, regional agronomist with CSC Crop Protection. "Up here we find we are now quite restricted. Yield increases have come at the expense of lateness."
Market pressures combined with bigger combine capacities and higher yielding varieties mean maltsters are closing their intakes ever earlier, says Mr Hughes. "They are now filling up with about 80% of their needs at harvest." That leaves growers in later areas strapped for choice if they hope to achieve good early prices. Southern growers can realise gross margins £350/ha (£142/acre) higher than those in the north, he estimates.
"The average malting price early on last August was £144.33," he says. "A week later the same sample was making only £129.40. That is quite a differential. It really pays to get the crop off and in to the maltster." About half the Scottish crop is grown in late areas like Turriff, says Mr Hughes. The later the harvest, the more prone the grain is to splitting, which was a big problem in some crops of Chariot last year. "25-30% splitting was not uncommon in places."
Some newer higher yielding varieties, like Optic, provisionally recommended Tankard, and to a lesser extent Landlord, also suffered quite high levels of splitting in CSC trials last year.
"Optic is definitely on the edge as a variety for the north," says Mr Hughes. "It is four to five days later than Prisma, and the further north you go the worse it gets.
"We are trying to move away from over-reliance on Chariot, but for me the only real choice for the later areas still has to be Prisma. It is the only one which you can be sure will give you a sample good enough and early enough."
lLivet, bred by the Scottish Crops Research Institute and entering Recommended List trials this year, is attracting plenty of interest north of the border. It outyields Optic by 5-6% and is earlier.
"It is too soon to tell whether it is as early as Chariot and Prisma," says the SCRIs Bill Thomas. It is very short and, unusually, combines good resistance to both mildew and rhynchosporium.
"It looks promising from the malting results so far. But it is still early days." *
Choose spring malting barleys with care in northern Scotland, advises CSC agronomist John Hughes.