Wiltshire farmer, David Lemon.
Based in Marlborough, Wiltshire, David Lemon has been growing malting quality spring barley for over 50 years. Of a total 3000 acres on farm, 1000acres is spring barley, and the remaining 2000 acres consists of winter and spring wheat, spring oats, and winter oilseed rape.
We grow spring barley because we have always found it to be a good spring break crop, usually averaging around 8 t/ha, says Mr Lemon. We try to keep barley at about a third of our total acreage. Were always conscious that if something goes wrong and the crop doesn’t perform, we don’t want to have all our eggs in one basket.
Last year was the first time Mr Lemon had decided to use Raxil Star(fluopyram + prothioconazole + tebuconazole) on his spring barley, after seeing the results of the seed treatment in trials and receiving a recommendation from Agrii. The use of an effective seed treatment, suited to on-farm conditions,has never been more important, says Peter Stacey, Bayers Seed TreatmentCampaign Manager.
Potentially, seed and soil borne diseases are the most yield damaging in both wheat and barley, but they are often overlooked because modern seed treatments are so effective. Many of these diseases are only controllable by seed treatments. With no foliar treatments available, if the opportunity to use a seed treatment is missed, there is no way to retrieve the situation later in the life of the crop, says Mr Stacey.
There is some evidence to suggest seed borne diseases such as loosesmut and leaf stripe are becoming more prevalent in commercial crops. So in order to minimise losses, it is more important than ever to ask for seed to be treated with a highly effective treatment, such as Raxil Star for spring barley.
Mr Lemon continues: Previously we had used Redigo and Manganese on our spring barley, but we were keen to try something different to keep up-to-date with the latest chemistry in this area.
I don’t know if it was the new seed treatment or the excellent weather conditions of the 2015 season, but last year was a record harvest for us! We averaged 9.63 t/ha and had a top yield of 10.5 t/ha, with the entire harvested crop sold for malting. We have always been impressed with spring barley, it isa good cultural control of black grass and is a cheaper crop to grow. But if you can yield around 10 t/ha and produce crop of malting quality then it is easily going to be the biggest gross margin on the farm by far.
With over 50 years experience in growing spring barley between Mr Lemonand his father, the pair have noticed a number of changes in the crop over the years. In particular, yield potential has increased considerably, but Mr Lemon says the greatest concern for him is harvest dates being pushed later and later.
Time and quality are obviously big concerns during harvest, but as the harvest date gets later and later, rainfall becomes more of a concern. There is nothing you can do to control it and if the harvest is delayed you can lose germination. A delayed harvest is also a concern for us as we use barley as an entry for winter OSR, comments Mr Lemon.
Having said that, the disease profile of spring barley is manageable,and using the right seed treatment has massively helped with that, allowing us to produce very competitive yields. The gross profit really stacks up and it is great that a spring break crop can be more profitable than a first winter wheat.
Around 35% of the 2 million tonnes of barley grown in UK goes into malting, of which much of the supplied crop is grown under contract. Mr Lemonsells his crop forward each year to leading breweries, negotiating a premium price and promising the high quality barley required by the UK’s maltsters. However, Mr Lemon warns that growers need to be cautious in this situation:
You can be the best salesman in the world and negotiate a great premium price, but if there is even the slightest problem with the crop, even it being the wrong colour, it will be rejected and you risk having to sell it for feed.Having said that, last year was our bumper harvest and all our spring barley went for the agreed price. Its all about doing everything you can to ensure you meet the quality you have agreed. Seed treatment is a fundamental part of that quality and something you cant afford to miss from your crop protection.
Spring barley is demanding particular attention at the moment, with many growers considering growing the crop instead of winter OSR. For these growers, Mr Lemon adds a note of caution:
If you are considering growing malting barley and don’t have drying facilities onsite then you really need to think again. We are very lucky to have excellent drying equipment on the farm but without it you risk quality,and growing malting barley is all about quality.