Farmers are switching to Hybrid Barley for yields, profitability and returns


Just as the property market depends on location, tillage farmers need reliable varieties that will pay the bills at the end of the year.

This theme of reliability featured strongly when Seedtech went to visit several tillage farmers after harvest 2019 to discuss how they got on with hybrid barley.

The area of winter barley planted reached an all-time high of just over 80,000ha in 2019, so many farmers and fields grew winter barley for the first time, and many had significant increases in their winter barley area. This brings its challenges such as rotation, workload spread, pest and disease management.

The three-crop rule and lack of break crop options have forced many growers to grow winter barley on land that might not be overly suitable for winter barley.

“Some land that wouldn’t be regarded as barley land is quite tricky to grow. Hybrid barley really wins here. We found that hybrid barley can thrive better and grow well under tricky conditions," according to independent advisor Jim O'Neill.

“Over the years with my farmers, hybrid barleys have improved quite a lot, both in terms of straw characteristics and quality.”

Testimonial

Darragh Cleary farms in Co Kildare and is very happy with the reliability of hybrid barley since he switched away from conventional varieties five years ago.

“Hybrid barley provides reliability in yields, suppression of grass weeds, its an easier crop to mind during the year and you have the added benefits in crop rotation. Plant breeders have perfected what we're looking for; high grain and straw yields and high-quality KPH,” says Darragh

Margins and yields

While ‘pub yields’ are high in 2019, the reality is not all winter barley crops left a decent margin.

What might have happened to reduce winter barley yields, and what can be done to avoid the same mistake in 2020? The fine weather in autumn 2018 tempted many growers into fields earlier than advisable, increasing the risk of BYDV and take-all.

To help with these issues Tim O’Donovan, technical director Seedtech advises: “For the 2020 harvest, delaying drilling will help BYDV and take-all but runs the risk of unfavourable seedbeds. This is where Belfry and Bazooka, with their hybrid vigour, really come into their own and offer a proven solution to growers.

Both problems were multiplied during the mild winter/early spring and added a few more such as mildew, septoria nodorum and the spot form of net blotch.

The growers Seedtech visited commented on how disease and BYDV did not seem to be much of an issue in their crops of Bazooka and Belfry. Pat Keenan, a Belfry grower in Kildare, found that there was a very little disease in his crop of Belfry compared to other crops this year.

Larry Flood who has grown hybrid barley for several years agreed that it is easier to control disease in hybrid barley, as it is not as susceptible as a two-row variety.

Belfry Hybrid Barley will contribute to the 40% increase in Hybrid Barleys sown this year.

From listening to the testimonials from these growers, one common theme is evident, and that is the consistent performance of both Belfry and Bazooka across a variety of soil types, rotations, and climates.

This is not surprising as Belfry and Bazooka topped the Department of Agriculture's recommended list for 2019 and combine high grain yields, grain quality, disease resistance, and straw yields. All reasons why these two varieties increased the overall tonnage delivered and bales sold on tillage farms in 2019.

Confidence

Gary Prendergast heard about hybrid barley from his discussion group, and its performance has given him the confidence to drill the majority of his winter barley fields with Belfry and Bazooka.

Larry Flood of Rathangan, Co Kildare agrees, saying: “I found that the hybrid barley yielded well this year and I would have got about a half a ton more than my two-row on average. The KPH is equally as good, so quality is not an issue with the varieties that are there."

Sowing

For any farmer interested in growing hybrid barley this autumn, the seeding rate is 200 seeds per square metre, versus the conventional 350 seeds per square metre. The Agronomy is easy, with just four simple steps:

1. Seeding: Correct seeding rate (200 seeds/m2)

2. Fertiliser: Early Nitrogen in spring (GS 25-30)

3. Spraying: Early PGR/Fungicide in spring (GS 30)

4. Harvesting: Correct combine settings

While it is still a few weeks until planting, Seedtech is encouraging farmers to discuss their planting options with their merchants or agronomists, and then place their orders with their merchants to ensure they will have seed on-farm in time for drilling.

If you would like to know more about the hybrid barley varieties Belfry and Bazooka, contact your local merchant, call Seedtech on 051-832 814, message them here

or check out our Hybrid Barley Agronomy guide here

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