New high yielding six-row hybrid winter barley is proving attractive for Robert Price of Rooks Nest Estate, Eastbury, Berks.
While the UK winter barley area has fallen, he is bucking that trend and has close to 200ha in the ground. That’s down to the combination of lifting the bar and the ‘benefits package’ they provide.
In his chalky soils Bazooka and Belmont have made 10t/ha a genuine prospect. Even last season yields averaged 8.9t/ha, better than a conventional variety in a good season. Add in the bonus of straw, which hybrids produce a lot of, and that more than pays for the higher seed cost, making hybrid winter barley comparable to a second wheat.
The benefits package is just as attractive as yield potential. It gets the combine moving early, providing a good entry for OSR (helping it to get away from CSFB quickly), and more time to develop an anti-black-grass stale seedbed.
A stale seedbed creation is one black-grass benefit, the second is hybrid spring vigour to ‘stifle’ the weed.
His agronomist, Crop Management Partners’ Richard Alderman, says it doesn’t offer the same benefit as a spring crop, but if populations are low and manageable, it can help. “It’s the spring vigour of hybrid winter barley where it really comes into its own. Its vigour sees it outgrow black-grass, restricting sunlight and tiller development.”
Spring vigour is also key to establishing 10t/ha potential. For that Mr Alderman generally lifts total N by 10-20kg/ha to around 190-200kg N/ha for hybrid varieties, with more applied early. “Typically I want 80 per cent of the N on by GS31 and our first application will be at the onset of spring growth, around GS25. Barley yield is dependent on grains/m2 which is ultimately driven by tiller production, survival and ear numbers, and hybrids ‘kick off’ early with their vigour and rooting.”
Fertiliser decisions are driven by hybrid growth stage rather than ‘traditional’ calendar date, so second applications go on at GS31, and the third at GS37-39. Variable application using a tractor-mounted sensor aims to ensure a more even plant stand and target N according to crop GAI.
However disease control is more balanced than the convention of ‘forward loading’ T1 sprays. He still sees the T1 as the more important of the two key disease timings but says the gap isn’t so pronounced with hybrids. “Hybrid flag leaves are bigger than conventional varieties and therefore contribute more to yield, so differential spend between T1 and T2 is more even.”
His T1 is typically a prothiconazole based product such as Siltra (prothioconazole + bixafen). Rates will depend on disease pressure, variety susceptibility and yield potential. Cyprodinil is likely to feature in the programme to help with net blotch, eyespot and mildew control, but is also there to provide another mode of action given net blotch resistance to SDHIs.
He feels hybrids offer scope to start the programme at T1. It depends on crop development and site. “Forward crops in fertile sites will probably need a T0 as brown rust is visible in many crops, especially as some hybrids are susceptible.”
For T2 sprays CTL will be added to deal with ramularia. Again, a prothioconazole mix is likely.
One argument for a T0 is that Mr Alderman feels a three-spray PGR programme is needed with hybrid height and higher N rates increasing lodging risk.
Agrii agronomist Greig Baird agrees and despite better broad-spectrum hybrid disease resilience he would always go for a three-spray fungicide programme. This is as much to do with lodging and brackling risk as rhynchosporium and brown rust. “With some hybrids the stems stay green for longer at harvest and with big heads it means an increased brackling threat. Combining PGRs in with all three disease control timings is important, especially the T2 to protect against brackling. Here I would be looking at Terpal (mepiquat chloride + ethephon).
With net blotch and mildew joining rhynchosporium and brown rust, broad spectrum disease control is equally as important. His fungicide programme typically starts with a robust T0 for early disease eradication followed by prothioconazole at T1 and T2.
Bixafen is likely to be added, as although trifloxystrobin and spiroxamine still have good activity their potency doesn’t quite match that of the SDHI. “Stacking actives will be essential under high disease pressure for broad spectrum activity and product stewardship. CTL will be added to T2 sprays to provide some safeguard against ramularia.”
The Achilles’ heel of six-row barley grain quality has also been rectified by newer hybrids in his view. “Until now generally it has been the two-row varieties that have had the edge on grain quality but that isn’t necessarily so today. Varieties such as Kingsbarn and Bazooka have lifted the bar here too with specific weights in the region of 70.8kg/hl. When you add up their yield, market and management benefits they are an attractive proposition,” he concludes.