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Hybrid barley yields giving bigger boost

Syngenta’s “next generation” of high yielding 6-row hybrid winter barleys has been unveiled

Syngenta’s “next generation” of high yielding 6-row hybrid winter barleys has been unveiled. Dominic Kilburn writes.
Candidate varieties on the current HGCA Recommended List, Bazooka and Belfry are billed as the next step on in terms of 6-row hybrid feed winter barley, claims breeder Syngenta. Both are the highest yielding winter barley Candidates at 108 per cent of controls and both come with very strong disease resistance scores, as well as other useful agronomic characteristics.
In addition, the pair is the first of Syngenta’s Hyvido-branded hybrid barleys to be entered into Recommended List trials since Volume in 2008 (see opposite).
Speaking at the company’s Cambridgeshire base, Syngenta technical crop expert – Hyvido, James Marshall-Roberts (left) said that Bazooka and Belfry yielded 2 per cent above Volume, while also offering improvements in disease resistance and agronomics (see Table 1).
“A step up from Volume, these varieties are a great fit for high pressure disease areas and, as well as having good specific weights and early to mature, they provide an early entry for oilseed rape.”
According to Mr Marshall-Roberts, and unusually for Candidate varieties, there will be sufficient seed available this autumn and he expects a move into Bazooka and Belfry from some current growers of Volume, as well as attracting growers of other varieties.

Rotational benefits
He pointed out the significant advantages that hybrid winter barley can provide in terms of black-grass suppression, saying that ADAS trials at Boxworth had demonstrated a superior reduction in the number of black-grass heads in a crop of Volume, compared with wheat.
However, it wasn’t just the number of heads that was reduced but also the heads were smaller with less seed, potentially resulting in a lower black-grass seed return. “Importantly, OSR crops have far less black-grass in them when following hybrid barley than wheat,” he added.
Mr Marshall-Roberts also highlighted data suggesting that OSR yields following winter barley benefitted by as much as 0.34t/ha compared with following a second wheat. “This comes from the earlier entry provided by winter barley allowing for more time to get establishment preparation right: better seedbeds, good consolidation and establishment.
“Hyvido winter barley’s earlier harvesting date also helps spread the harvest workload as well as providing an opportunity for early movement of grain,” he added.

On-farm benefit
Syngenta seed asset manager James Taylor-Alford said that to make winter barley variety choice clearer for growers, it was essential that they considered larger, field-scale trials data in addition to that provided by the Recommended List. “The RL is a trusted source of information that ranks the genetic potential of varieties as well as disease and agronomic scores, but on-farm large-scale trials are a true indication of how varieties perform,” he suggested.
Yield advantages were seen for Volume over conventional winter barley varieties in both small plot and farm-scale trials (2011-2014), but it was in the latter where the greater difference was seen (a mean of 0.85t/ha).
“Hyvido varieties excel in large-scale studies which provide a more accurate picture of variety performance on farm,” he added.

As well as better yielding, Mr Taylor-Alford said that Hyvido varieties also consistently delivered increased profitability over conventional varieties (using RL data sets and Nix costings 2011-2014) and, while the outlook for 2015 and beyond currently looked tough, with low grain prices, driving yield with Hyvido varieties will be key, and could deliver more profitability over some second wheats.
“Growers also get the agronomic benefits of black-grass suppression, better OSR yields and easier workloads on farm,” he concluded.
Back on the List
Syngenta has re-entered its hybrid winter barley varieties into Recommended List trials for the first time since Volume in 2008 following changes to the RL protocols for winter barley. In the intervening years the company said that it didn’t believe that RL protocols showed hybrid barley in the best light, or that the target for recommendation was fair.
Growers will now be able to see new technology tested in a way that takes it a step closer as to what is happening on farm, says Syngenta, which, over time, will make choices on the RL clearer for growers.
HGCA RL protocol changes include:
– A higher proportion of winter barley trials are now focused on feed. It was previously a 50:50 split (feed and malting) but now 80:20 in favour of feed, reflecting the market.
– Nitrogen programmes – modern feed barley fertiliser programmes implemented across RL sites, with early nitrogen emphasis on feed trials and three splits where appropriate.
– New Recommendation target segments: Feed barley and malting barley only (rather than 2- and 6-row conventional; 6-row hybrid; malting).
– Yield targets: +3 per cent of the average of highest yielding 2- and 6-row on the RL.

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