Southern counties farmer, Nigel Pond, is toastingsuccess after winning a prestigious competition for the quality of his springmalting barley with his prize being to receive 500 bottles of beer brewedfrom his winning crop.
Mr Pond, who farms 330 hectares at Dene Farm, nearStockbridge, Hampshire, also got to choose the recipe for his beer which wasmade using his 2014-harvested crop of the variety Propino and to add thefinishing touches by naming the brew and helping to design the bottles label.
But as well as the crops quality winning thecompetition which was judged by agricultural merchant Robin Appel andsupported by Warminster Maltings and Syngenta its yield also surpassed thefarms usual spring barley yields by as much as 1 t/ha.
Added to that, the rest of the crop made the gradefor one of the regions important markets for spring malting barley that ofexport.
I was ecstatic about winning, explains Mr Pond,who has been farming at Dene Farm for 36 years, having followed in thefootsteps of his father and grandfather. Weve grown Propino for about fouryears. We like its yield and its ability to give us a low grain nitrogencontent. This year it was between 1.5 and 1.6%, which is exactly what we areaiming for. Its always done really well.
We chose the recipe for the beer after tastinglots of others and deciding which one we liked best. And we called the beer WallopWobbler because the village we live in is Nether Wallop, and if you haveenough of the beer you start to wobble. Its got a standing power of four: ifyou have five you fall over, he adds.
With a long history of growing spring barley on thefarm, Mr Pond says the crop plays a central role in the farms three-yearrotation, slotting in between first wheat and break crops of either oilseedrape or peas on his chalk and flint soils.
Farming close to the port of Southampton also meansspring barley varieties with potential for both UK use and export form a keypart of those grown on the farm two markets where Propino fits.
Spring barley is important in the rotation, MrPond continues. We probably couldnt grow winter wheat without it. Being a springcrop it also helps with our grass weed management it cleans the land up.There is no black-grass on the farm.
Typically, the farms spring malting barley yieldsrange from 8 – 8.6 t/ha. But the winning Propino crop also topped that at 9t/ha, says Mr Pond, and produced a plump grain size with less than 2% passingthrough a 2.25 mm sieve. After tasting success in the competition, Propino isset to continue to be grown on the farm in 2016.
Commenting on the competition, Jonathan Arnold,director of barley and oats at Robin Appel, said low grain nitrogen and goodgrain size were among the key factors for judging along with varietal purity,absence of splitting, skinning or Fusarium infection of grain, and a low levelof weed seeds.
He added that yield is important for profitabilitywith the crop, and growing a variety with export and UK market potential is animportant consideration.
Growers in the south have got to look at exportvarieties, said Mr Arnold, because we are a long way from domesticconsumption of any size. Look at export out of Southampton or Poole at whatthey are taking. The vast majority is Propino, he adds.
Then look at the domestic scene: there may be somelow nitrogen premium for Propino for it to possibly travel east.