Order early to secure spring seed

Book spring seed requirements in good time given strong demand and tighter supplies going into next season, says Hutchinsons seeds manager for the south, Peter Brundle.

spring barley on arable farming article

Demand for spring seed has increased following the exceptionally wet autumn in many parts of the UK, which has disrupted some winter drilling plans.

If conditions do not dry out enough to allow winter drilling to be completed, this is likely to mean more unplanned spring cropping to fill the gap.

Seed supply is also tighter than normal due to disappointing yields and quality of many spring crops from the 2023 season.

Some key varieties are likely to sell out before Christmas, if they have not done so already, therefore if you know what you want, order early to avoid disappointment.

Barley remains top choice

Despite lower market prices and disappointing performance in 2023, spring barley remains the main spring cropping option for many farmers, given the range of established markets available.

It also offers the best option for rotational suppression of black-grass and other grassweeds, so if you’ve not sown hybrid barley in the winter, then it is a good choice, and is better than spring wheat, which doesn’t offer the same competitiveness in the field.

End user requirements often dictate variety choice for those supplying premium spring barley contracts, but where growers have more flexibility, there are some good options to consider.

Laureate is now the undoubted number one in the marketplace, outselling its competitors, while offering dual purpose end markets, as does LG Diablo, although that’s not as widely grown.

Previous market leader RGT Planet is likely to continue losing market share; however, it will still attract support from growers that have seen very consistent performance.

Skyway is a very competent offer, and has potential brewing ability, although it is still under test by the Malting Barley Committee (MBC) at the time of writing.

As for feed varieties, Westminster and Kelim are still popular, but malting varieties arguably offer better yield.

Spring wheat choices

Mulika, KWS Ladum, and newcomer KWS Harsum are the main Group 1 choices, although Mulika is now at a significant yield disadvantage to newer varieties.

KWS Ladum has no major disease weaknesses, with high resistance to mildew, brown rust and Septoria tritici. It will be a major consideration for next spring.

KWS Cochise, and to a lesser extent KWS Chilham provide alternatives in the Group 2 sector, which is little changed, although KWS Alicium is a new addition for 2023 and is showing potential.

Hard Group 4 options include WPB Escape and KWS Fixum, both of which are slightly later maturing (+1 compared with Mulika). KWS Fixum has no major disease weaknesses, with high resistance to yellow rust, mildew and brown rust.


The current market leaders for spring oats are WPB Elyann and WPB Isabel, although Merlin has made significant headway since joining the Recommended List last year, and Canyon still has support within the market place.

Spring pulses

Lynx will again be the dominant variety among spring bean growers, although Ghengis has attracted some followers since joining the list in 2021.

Genius is now the highest yielding on the Descriptive List, but availability in any significant quantity could be an issue so order early.

Carrington and Bluetime are popular pea options, while newcomer Butterfly shows the strength and depth of the LSPB portfolio. Kameleon and Orchestra are the standout white peas, however, availability is key.

Takayama is the new addition to the list for Marrowfats and Sakura has shown its consistency and support from the end user. The yield gap is circa 10%, but again, as with anything that involves a quality premium, this will be decided by the end user.

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