The June 2023 issue of LG GatePost is now available to download.
This edition features articles about our newest wheat addition to the 2023-24 AHDB Recommended List, LG Redwald, as well as LG Caravelle, our excellent 2-row winter feed barley.
You can read about and view our Live Panel event which was a round table discussion on Varieties, Soils and Policy with industry experts.
We discuss the new Sustainable Farming Incentives and the new ‘actions’ involved, with an article about why to consider establishing a legume fallow.
There is also information about our upcoming Demo Days and a link to register.
Download the June edition here, and don’t forget to claim your BASIS and/or NRoSO points for reading it.LG Redwald – Taming the Beast!
Limagrain’s newest wheat addition to the 2023-24 AHDB Recommended List, LG Redwald, follows in the footsteps of LG Skyscraper as the highest yielding feed wheat with a UK treated yield of 107% – sitting at 107% in the east and an impressive 109% in the west.
LG Redwald has shown this high yield consistency across regions and very testing seasons of weather. Its high untreated yield of 92% reflects its very good disease resistance, especially for Septoria tritici.
How to get the best out of LG Redwald
1. Adjust Seed Rates – LG Redwald is a high tillering, big biomass plant type, so consider a lower seed rate. Limagrain trials over several seasons show that reducing the seed rate by 20% had no effect on overall yield performance, with better lodging resistance.
2. Straw Strength – LG Redwald is a taller variety (94cm) with a big biomass, so a well targeted, robust, split PGR programme is recommended. If the desired early split timings are not achieved, then the inclusion of a late PGR (Cerone or Terpal) is advised.
3. Drilling Date – Do not drill LG Redwald too early, as it does not have the characteristics associated for the early drilling situation. It suits the standard drilling window of mid-October onwards and can be drilled to the end of January. For growers in the north, the drilling date can be pulled back to the beginning of October.
4. Soil Type – LG Redwald benefits from being grown on water retentive soil types; not lighter soil types associated with drought situations. Reduce seed rates and implement a good PGR programme for heavier/ fertile soils.
5. Rotational Position – LG Redwald performs well as a 1st or 2nd wheat. Sitting as the highest yielding wheat (109%) in a 2nd wheat situation, it is a valuable variety to improve gross margins in this challenging situation. It has good tolerance to take-all, but a low rating for eyespot and should be treated accordingly.
6. Fungicide Programme – LG Redwald has good disease resistance for Septoria tritici, and both Rusts – we advise that all crops should be monitored and treated accordingly.
Whilst trials show that a robust on-farm fungicide strategy should be implemented, a T0 spray may not be required, depending on disease pressure. However, a robust T3 fungicide is important for protection against Fusarium, and as it is a later maturing variety, there are benefits from maintaining green leaf canopy to maximise grain fill.
7. Insecticide – LG Redwald has OWBM resistance.
Download the latest edition of LG GatePost hereLG Live Panel – Varieties, Soils & Policy
On 21st March, LG’s Ron Granger and Tom Barker were joined by industry experts, Tim Parton (Farm Manager, Staffordshire) and Susan Twining (CLA Advisor) for a live Q&A round table discussion on Varieties, Soils & Policy.
Key Questions raised…
1. Do you still think yield is king? Are breeders, such as Limagrain, breeding varieties specifically for a regen system?
RON GRANGER: “Yield will always be important because farmers have to make an income. But the key issue going forward is around yield security, especially with our changing climate. For example, the capability of a plant to withstand spring droughts is now becoming an increasingly important factor.”
“Robust disease resistance also has a key part to play – we are currently seeing the fruition of stacking genes in both Septoria and rust resistances. Resistance to pests is also key.”
“Most growers have been adopting some form of regenerative practise for the last 5 years, so we are in a position where growers are able to tell us, as breeders, what they want from varieties to suit a regen system for the future.”
“Generally, varieties for regen have been chosen from the present AHDB RL – which is not a problem. However, as breeders, we can look at the germplasm in our programme and identify varieties that will better suit a direct drilling, wide-row situation.”
2. What type or size of crop rotation is likely to be needed to sustain regenerative farming? Do you use companion cropping?
TIM PARTON: “I try to extend my rotation as much as possible and split spring to winter cropping by 50:50, to allow for as much cover cropping as possible. It’s the cover cropping that is key to the system and this brings in the variety of plants above and roots below the soil.”
“Companion cropping is important, particularly in OSR, where I grow white, berseem and crimson clover in the crop, to take it through. Nature doesn’t monocrop and plant diversity is key.”
3. Should regen ag be certified?
SUSAN TWINING: “At the CLA , we have looked closely at this, and decided that it is not something that we would advocate for at this stage, if ever. Regen farming is about a set of principles which allows for flexibility, depending on the farming situation etc. In certifying this, it would become a tick box exercise – which makes it a completely different concept.”
“ELMS offer a good suite of options to reward farmers for good practise. We already have the Soils SFI, the IPM, and Nutrient Management SFI’s coming out later this year.”
You can watch the full version HERELG Denmark Study Tour
In the spring, Limagrain took a group of UK growers to Denmark, to look at regenerative and conservation agricultural practices.
After two full days of visiting farms, agronomy companies and a plant breeder, there was some very interesting and surprising feedback:
GEORGE ATKINSON, LINCOLNSHIRE: “It’s been fascinating to see all the different farming systems, and also learn about Danish policies that contradict themselves. I was expecting to come and see the future, but some of the growers are where we were 15 to 20 years ago.”
AL BROOKS, HAMPSHIRE: “I came here with a preconceived idea that we were going to learn something from the Danes in terms of their view towards conservation and regenerative agriculture. I was stunned by the amount of red tape they are subjected to. They are constricted in the industry and don’t have the voice with government.”
TIM PARTON, STAFFORDSHIRE: “I think the government advisors in Denmark need to take a real hard look at what they are trying to achieve, and what their directives are. They are so restrictive; they are missing out on the big benefits they could be getting from regenerative and conservation agriculture. They need to help their farmers more, rather than restrict them.”
“Discovering that UK farming practice with regards to conservation agriculture or regen is ahead of Denmark, was a surprise to many on the trip, and a real positive take home message for the UK.
It’s very noticeable that plant breeding is paramount to the future direction of agriculture, as practices move towards lower input and better disease resistances. Limagrain look forward to sharing what we do with growers from the UK and abroad,” says Tom Barker of Limagrain, who hosted the trip.
Download the latest edition of LG GatePost hereSurvey reveals variety decisions driven by regional trials information
Arable farmers favour local variety trials over national demonstrations when making crucial decisions about what varieties to grow next season, a survey by plant breeders Limagrain UK reveals.
The online questionnaire shows the overwhelming majority (86%) regard the information they gain from regional variety demonstrations as being more relatable than from national events.
“This is mainly because local events offer the chance to see how new and existing varieties perform in local soils, climate, and disease situations,” comments Limagrain UK cereals and pulses product manager, Tom Barker.
“Indeed,43% of farmers responding to the survey have attended a regional event with variety trials in the past 12 months, compared with just 28% that have attended a national event, such as Cereals or Arable Scotland.”
“Around one quarter have taken part in an online trials webinar, such as those organised by AHDB, or NIAB TAG.”
“Three-quarters of growers are prepared to travel up to an hour or more to attend a regional variety trial, and alongside location and practical considerations, such as date and time, the quality of technical information on offer is a major factor influencing the decision to attend,” he says.
This shows growers value the opportunity to gather technical information on individual varieties, and how to grow them, he points out, although of particular interest is the ability to compare treated and untreated plots to see first hand how varietal characteristics stand up to seasonal pressures.
“Other areas of interest include; late versus early drilling comparisons, different methods of establishment, alternative fungicide programmes, and trace element/ micronutrient work.”
As might be expected, winter wheat varieties are generally of most interest, followed by winter barley, spring barley, oilseed rape, then a host of other minor crops.
“It is also clear from the survey that, while growers take information from a range of sources when making variety decisions, including independent bodies, breeders, agronomists, and seed merchants, the vast majority (93%) would confidently select a variety based on what they had seen or learned at a variety trial,” says Mr Barker.
“We organised the survey to find out what growers want from trials events, and how we can tailor them to their needs in the future.”
“It shows that growers base their varietal decision making on what they see or learn at demonstrations and trials, with regional events once again proving their worth as a place growers can go to gain knowledge and understanding of varieties.”
Summer Demo Days
Recognising the importance of local information when making variety choices, Limagrain UK hosts a series of events around the country every year.
This summer’s programme during June and July features five locations, from our milling wheat demonstration on the Essex coast near Maldon, up to the Perth winter wheat trials in central Scotland (see panel for details of all events).
Every demonstration will showcase a range of new and existing varieties, alongside five new Candidate wheat varieties currently going through Recommended List approval. These include two potential biscuit wheats, LG Arkle and LG Grendel, and two hard feed wheats, LG Beowulf – the highest yielding feed wheat Candidate – and LG Redrum.
Limagrain UK’s Rothwell site will also feature the new winter barley Candidate LG Capitol, plus the highest yielding two-row feed, LG Caravelle, which joined the RL this year.
Click here to head to our Events page, where all of our Summer Demo Days are listed – ‘SIGN UP’ to get involved!Six Steps to Spring Barley Success
As spring barley drilling gets underway in some areas, Limagrain UK’s arable technical manager, Ron Granger, outlines six ways to get the most from the crop this season.
- 1. Understand end market/ contract requirements
End user requirements will influence many agronomic decisions, particularly nitrogen strategy, so it is essential growers are clear about the quality criteria that must be met, says Mr Granger.
“Depending on the locality and the opportunities for selling to different end users or export markets, the barley crop you grow – and the agronomic inputs required – will be determined by the sector you target.”
This is particularly true for those dependent on hitting a certain grain nitrogen percentage to achieve the contract premium, notably distilling, which requires 1.65% N or lower, brewing 1.65-1.85%, and grain distilling at 1.85%+. Grain nitrogen is not a concern for animal feed.
- 2. Choose the right variety
In many instances, variety choice is also determined by the end user or contract chosen.
However, for those still to decide what to grow, Mr Granger recommends considering one of the dual use varieties, such as LG Diablo, which has good yield performance, with several end market opportunities, offering an advantage over many varieties now listed.
“Newer recommended varieties certainly offer higher yield potential, and if contracts are offered, then they are certainly worth considering. Dual use varieties offer growers flexibility for the distilling, brewing and feed market sectors.”
- 3. Wait for good drilling conditions
Limagrain trials show earlier drilling in spring can improve yield potential, however, this is mainly only possible on lighter, more free-draining land, that will dry and warm quicker than a heavier soil type.
“Early drilling will significantly increase disease risk, so consider more disease resistant varieties for this situation,” says Mr Granger.
“Generally, patience is required to wait for the right window of opportunity, when both the weather and soil conditions allow good seedbeds to be created with rising soil and air temperatures, to ensure rapid emergence and establishment, with continued plant growth.
“Certainly, we saw the value of earlier drilling in spring 2022, with most growers drilling earlier than usual in most regions. This, along with upfront nutrition before the drought hit, was certainly part of the reason why growers achieved higher yield potential than originally anticipated.”
- 4. Optimise seed rate
A survey of more than 100 growers by Limagrain last year showed half (49%) of growers were typically sowing spring barley at 300-350 seeds/m2, and most (76%) targeting a yield of 8 t/ha.
This rate appears to be about right when drilling into good conditions, however Mr Granger says seed rates must be tailored to individual situations.
Limagrain trials comparing variety seed rates over various seasons and regions suggest that with more vigorous, higher tillering varieties, such as LG Diablo, the optimum seed rate is 350 seeds/m2 when drilling into ideal conditions around mid-March.
However, this should be adjusted up or down depending on the weather, seedbed quality, moisture availability, drilling date, and the growers’ own experience on each site, says Mr Granger.
“Late-sown crops inevitably produce fewer tillers and therefore fewer ears, which must be compensated for by increasing seed rate.”
A lower rate of 300-325 seeds/m2 could suffice if drilling into an “onion bed” in March, but when forced to drill into April, due to the weather, or agronomic reasons, such as black-grass control, pushing rates up to 400 to 450 seeds/m2 may be more appropriate to achieve the optimum final ear number and a competitive crop in a black-grass situation, he advises.
- 5. Maintain tiller number
Once crops are established, Mr Granger says the best way to achieve high spring barley yield potential is to ensure high final ear counts. The AHDB Barley growth guide suggests final target ear population should be around 775 ears/m2.
“It is interesting to note that in 2019, higher yield potential was achieved from even higher final ear counts, approaching 800/m2 by harvest. An 8-9 t/ha crop needs around 800 ears/m2, which at a 350 seeds/m2 rate, equates to around 2.5-3 tillers per plant at harvest.
“However, experience shows optimal tiller and ear counts may be underachieved in many situations, meaning crops fall short of achieving their full yield potential.”
The biggest issue is often the weather, Mr Granger acknowledges. Drought conditions will cause tiller loss, so he says to ensure numbers are high enough at the outset by selecting high tillering varieties, using an appropriate seed rate, and driving establishment and early rooting by implementing a balanced nutrition regime early in the crop’s development.
“Traditionally, spring barley was often seen as a lower input crop, with growers reluctant to increase nitrogen application rates in fear of exceeding maltsters grain nitrogen limits. However, LG trials over many seasons of testing, indicate that using higher N rates can be beneficial.”
In the trials, a standard seedbed application of 120 kg N/ha was compared to a split nitrogen application of 150 kg N/ha, with the additional 30 kg applied at late tillering. This resulted in a yield benefit of 0.4-0.5 t/ha over a single seedbed dose, with little or no impact on grain nitrogen.
“Higher yielding varieties respond positively to higher nitrogen inputs, due to their increased yield potential and dilution of grain nitrogen content.”
6. Optimise other nutrients
Alongside nitrogen, optimising other macronutrients, such as phosphate, potash, magnesium and sulphur, has proven beneficial to tiller retention and final yield.
These should be applied in the seedbed or soon after drilling to promote strong rooting and early plant growth, Mr Granger advises.
“Tissue analysis of the young growing crop can help identify any shortfalls in nutrition before visible symptoms appear, and is a relatively inexpensive way of targeting a high yielding crop.”
Additional micronutrients, such as manganese, zinc, copper, iron, and boron, applied at the stem extension phase into flowering, are also useful, ensuring a healthy crop and good ear fertility, whilst also helping secure high grain number and maximum yield potential. “Apply these independently with other key inputs, or as a multi-nutrient product.
“Spring barley is a fast-growing crop and if key nutrients are deficient at any time, yield potential will be compromised.”
Also consider early growth regulator applications on crops to promote rooting and strong uniform tillering, he adds.
At least two fungicides are recommended to maintain tiller number and healthy plants, including the awns and maximum grain development. Typically, the first application is at GS 25-31, with the second targeted between GS 39-55.
“Of course, if the season dictates a low disease pressure, or a drought situation, flexibility in fungicide input and timing should be adjusted for the final yield potential in hand.
“Spring barley can move through growth stages quickly, so close monitoring of the growing crop is essential.”
For more info, see Limagrain’s Spring Barley Agronomy videosLG GatePost Newsletter – Feb 2023
The February 2023 issue of LG GatePost is now available to download.
This edition features articles about our exciting new Wheat, Winter Barley and Oilseed Rape varieties that are taking leading positions across the 2023/24 AHDB Recommended List.
You can read about how moving to direct drilling of LG Diablo Spring Barley has proven successful for Berwickshire grower, Neil White and watch our Spring Barley agronomy series of videos that give you all the technical know-how to successfully grow your Spring Barley crop.
There is also information about our upcoming Trials Events, and online Technical Webinar.
Download the February edition here, and don’t forget to claim your BASIS and/or NRoSO points for reading it.
Direct drilled LG Diablo performs in one of the driest seasons on record
A move to direct drilling LG Diablo spring barley has proven successful for Berwickshire grower Neil White, as yields and quality impressed in a challenging season.
Mr White has been direct drilling crops for the past seven years at the 260 ha (650-acre) Greenknowe Farm near Duns, but until this season, had not established spring barley this way.
“Barley has been the last crop I’ve gone over to direct drilling with, but we successfully tried it on two-thirds of our area last spring, sowing directly into overwintered stubble. We will direct drill all of our barley again this spring, either into overwintered stubble or after a cover crop.
“It’s really pleasing for me to see that LG Diablo works in that direct drilled scenario, and still produces a good yield and grain quality. I’m very happy with it.”
The farm’s target spring barley yield is usually around 7.4-8.6 t/ha (3-3.5 t/acre), and this year’s 35 ha of LG Diablo was at the top end of that range, despite some very dry conditions during the growing season.
Quality was good too, with nitrogen coming in at 1.52%, and specific weight at 67.4 kg/hl, allowing everything to meet the malting specification required by grain buyer, Simpsons Malt.
“It produced a nice bold grain, despite the very dry spell. Everything hit the spec for malting, which is spot-on.”
Mr White acknowledges there were a few light grains this season, which he attributes to the lack of rain, preventing some grain from maturing and filling fully. “We certainly haven’t seen any issues with screenings before, so I’m sure it’s due to the year, not the variety.”
Mr White recognises that his Mzuri drill does move more soil than other direct drills, but believes this benefits barley establishment in the spring, as it helps aerate the soil, warm it up and mineralise some nitrogen.
Switching from a combination drill to the Mzuri has also allowed him to sow spring barley at variable seed rates to account for establishment differences on varied soil types, and put fertiliser ‘down the spout’ with seed, to get crops off to a good start.
Seed rates last season typically ranged from 380-440 seeds/m2 on the variable soils, with crops sown on 33cm rows. That is a much wider spacing than spring barley is conventionally sown at, but he believes LG Diablo’s vigour enables it to fill the gaps between rows nicely.
“Also, it doesn’t brackle, which is something that is always a threat if weather turns catchy at harvest, especially on wider rows.”
Wider benefits of direct drilling
Soil carries machinery better when it is not ploughed.
Moving less soil reduces total fuel consumption which saves money and improves the carbon credentials of direct-drilled malting barley.
In demand from distillers
LG Diablo’s consistency is valued by end users too, says Mike Dagg, senior grain trader at Simpsons Malt, who expects it to remain one of the top two varieties grown in Scotland for distilling over coming years.
“We’ve had the variety for five or six years now, and we know it goes through the malting process very well. If it performs well going through the malting process, then there’s every chance the malt product will also do well going through distilling too.”
Indeed, over the past few years, LG Diablo has shown consistently good performance in distilleries, both in terms of spirit yields and processability, which ultimately leads to good efficiency and maintains demand for the variety, he says.
“LG Diablo is now pretty universally accepted by the majority of the Scottish distilling industry, and I don’t really see that changing anytime soon.
“Because LG Diablo is so consistent, and benefits from dual use approval for brewing and distilling, it’s got the ability to compete with, and hold its ground against, any new varieties coming along.
“I don’t see anything coming through breeding programmes currently that suggests LG Diablo and Laureate will lose their dominance in the Scottish distilling market.”Dominating the 2023/24 AHDB Recommended List
It’s a grand slam as Limagrain UK’s exciting new wheat, winter barley and oilseed rape varieties, take leading positions across the 2023/24 AHDB Recommended List.
LG Redwald secures poll position as the highest yielding winter wheat.
LG Caravelle is the highest yielding two row winter barley.
Attica joins as the highest yielding oilseed rape variety, with the essential turnip yellows (TuYV) and pod shatter resistance traits.
LG Wagner is the highest yielding addition to the northern OSR Recommended List.
LG Redwald sets a new standard for high yielding wheats, yielding 107% in the UK, (107% in the east and 109% in the west). As a soft wheat, the variety also offers potential for distilling.
These high yields have been consistently proven across National List trials, over seasons, drilling date and soil type, particularly in the second wheat and later drilling situations.
LG Redwald has an excellent disease resistance profile, with very good Septoria resistance as well as orange wheat blossom midge (OWBM) resistance.
“It is an exciting variety that should deliver for growers in 2023/24, if supported with good agronomic practise to ensure it meets its full potential on farm, and comes at a time when growers are looking more than ever to maximise output in order to maintain profit in times of increasing costs.”
– says Ron Granger, arable technical manager.
LG Caravelle is the highest yielding two row winter barley to join the 2023/24 Recommended List.
LG Caravelle dispels any misconception that two row barleys are lower yielding than hybrids.
It offers UK yields of 106.3% – which is as good as the top yielding hybrid barley variety – and yields 2% above hybrids in the east.
These high yields are backed up by an excellent disease profile, reflected in LG Caravelle’s high untreated yields. LG Caravelle also offers an exceptionally high specific weight for a winter barley, of 71.8 kg/hl.
It is an early maturing variety with stiff straw; both important characteristics for a winter barley.
Attica is a newly recommended fully loaded hybrid with full UK recommendation. It joins the Recommended List as the highest yielding variety to combine stable high yields with the genetic security of TuYV and pod shatter resistance traits.
Attica has a strong autumn growth habit, offering growers a wide drilling window and a very good disease resistance package.
LG Wagner joins the north Recommended List as the highest yielding variety (108.1%). In 2022, it was the highest yielding variety, also offering the security of pod shatter and TuYV resistance. It is a shorter hybrid with stiff stems, combined with solid light leaf spot resistance and good stem health.
“This is a tremendous achievement and is the first time that any breeder has achieved this level of success across all of the cropping sectors in the last decade, if not longer.”
– says William Charlton, marketing manager for arable seeds.
“We believe this success is built on our unique UK focussed breeding approach, which means we are able to select for the UK’s maritime climate from day one in the breeding programme. This allows us to look for consistently high yielding varieties from the very start of our programme, to suit UK growers and end user requirements.”YEN Innovation Award winner
This year, to mark 10 years of the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN), a new Innovation Award has been commissioned which was presented at the YEN conference on 24th January. The award is for an outstanding contribution to on-farm innovation and has been sponsored by Limagrain.
“Limagrain has been an active supporter of YEN since its inception so it seems only fitting that we sponsored the Innovation Award for the 10th anniversary conference,” says Limagrain’s Arable Marketing Manager, Will Charlton.
“As a company that invests in UK based breeding activities for all major arable crops, innovation is a core value of our business. Alongside bringing new varieties to market, we invest a considerable amount of time and money in examining how our varieties perform in different farming systems. Over the years YEN has been invaluable in helping us facilitate this work by providing a structure and detailed analysis to aid Limagrain’s collaborations with innovative farmers across the country.”
The standard of nominations was exceptionally high with all the farmers demonstrating a passion for progress, learning and collaboration. However, there could only be one winner. The award was presented by Limagrain’s Arable Technical Specialist, Liam Wilkinson.
“I’m delighted to announce that Russ McKenzie, farm manager of DJ Tebbit and John Sheard Farms, has won the YEN innovation Award. Russ has demonstrated his commitment to YEN by being one of the few farmers to provide an entry every year since YEN began.
In particular, the judges were impressed by his recent on farm trials work which has sought to investigate fungicide, nutrition and variety interactions under his own establishment system, utilising the latest digital and molecular diagnostics, alongside a trials plot combine to analyse the results. The complexity of his trials required dedication and a significant time commitment throughout a busy growing season. The data generated has provided valuable insights into how different inputs interact and influence a farming system.”‘Phenomenal’ yields make LG Diablo top choice next spring
The third year of growing LG Diablo was certainly one to remember for Yorkshire farmer Paul Rogers, after the variety revealed its true yield potential on his 182 ha (450-acre) farm near Ripon.
Some 25 ha (60 acres) averaged 10 t/ha (4 t/acre) sold weight at 15.5% moisture, with one field hitting an impressive 10.6 t/ha (4.3 t/acre). Furthermore, all crops achieved the full malting specification required by grain buyer Saxon Agriculture, coming in at 1.51% nitrogen and an average specific weight of 68 kg/hl.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. The barley was rolling off the combine like a crop of first wheat. It was phenomenal!”
Mr Rogers acknowledges the highest yields did come from the farm’s best “good bodied” land, that did not drought off in the dry season, but even so, he would have still only expected yields of nearer 7.5 t/ha (3 t/acre).
“Even another 25-acre block of drought-hit sandy land still managed to do 7.2 t/ha (2.9 t/acre), which was tremendous for a field that droughted-off.
“I don’t know exactly where the big yield came from, because we didn’t do a lot different to the year before, apart from getting crops in earlier, around mid-March instead of early April. It was just an earlier spring; the soil conditions were correct for drilling.”
The LG Diablo established quickly, resulting in a dense plant stand that “looked like a carpet”, he notes. “The key was to keep it standing, which meant we did put on an extra growth regulator, in addition to Terpal (ethephon + mepiquat).”
Mr Rogers admits that while he may not be able to guarantee hitting such impressive yields every year, LG Diablo‘s performance in 2022 at least demonstrates what the variety is capable of on his farm and soil types, and he plans to put all of his spring barley area (around 30 ha) into LG Diablo again next spring.
A key reason for growing spring barley on the farm is for its role in controlling black-grass and ryegrass, Mr Rogers says. “Both are becoming more of a problem, but I’ve found that if I can get thick coverage of spring barley, it does a tremendous job of smothering the black-grass, which we did see last season.”
He adopts a very traditional approach to establishing spring barley. Preceding stubbles are left to green-up after harvest, before land is ploughed in November, allowing bare soil to weather and breakdown naturally over winter. He then goes in with a power-harrow/ box drill combination, once ground is dry and warm enough in the spring, usually around early April.
“It normally doesn’t worry me drilling spring barley towards the middle of April, if that’s when conditions are right, so long as I can make sure it goes into moisture, and I can conserve that moisture in the seedbed.
“The important thing is to drill when conditions are right, not on a particular date. Last year [2022 harvest], we didn’t do a lot different to normal, apart from getting crops drilled slightly earlier because soil conditions allowed.”
Ploughing in November allows time to achieve a good flush of weeds in the autumn, which means no pre-emergence spray is needed in spring. “I don’t want anything knocking the crop, and pre-ems can sometimes hold barley back a bit. I prefer to wait until weeds have emerged after drilling, and then tackle what’s there. The spring barley itself is our grassweed control, so we only really need broadleaf chemistry.”
Granular phosphate and potassium fertiliser (0-20-30) is typically applied once the tramlines have been established, as is the nitrogen, with crops getting around 135 kg N/ha in total.
Manganese is a key nutrient for spring barley, and Mr Rogers generally includes it with both of the main fungicide applications, as well as sowing manganese-dressed seed. Last year’s fungicides were based on benzovindiflupyr applied in May, and fluxapyroxad + Mefentrifluconazole in June.
“LG Diablo is certainly a good variety that has performed well for us in all three years we’ve grown it, so I’ve no plans to grow anything else next year,” he concludes. “LG Diablo is ticking all the boxes for me at the moment.”LG Diablo is a perfect fit for mixed farm
The combination of LG Diablo’s high yield potential and consistent grain quality has made it a firm favourite within the rotation for East Fife farmer David Bell.
The mixed arable and suckler beef farm near St Andrews extends across three holdings, centering its varied rotation around potatoes, winter wheat, winter and spring barley, vining peas, 5-8-year grass leys, permanent pasture, and Agri-Environmental Climate Scheme options.
The farm has been growing LG Diablo since before it joined the Recommended List, and in 2020, won the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) Gold award with the variety, achieving the highest spring barley yield of 11.3 t/ha.
“There’s no hiding the fact that LG Diablo is a great yielder; it rivals any feed spring barley,” Mr Bell says.
“Our yield in the 2020 YEN competition was phenomenal, and it all made sub-1.65% nitrogen malting spec. Mother Nature was very favourable towards us that year, and we were really able to maximise the potential of the variety. The crop didn’t get any special treatment, we were just attentive to timings and it really delivered for us.
“Having grown LG Diablo for eight years, our understanding of how to manage the variety to get the best out of it has grown as well, and we’ve had some amazing yields. It has also shown consistency for hitting low nitrogen malting spec.”
Building and maintaining soil health is fundamental to the farm business, and underpins the success of any crop, including spring barley, Mr Bell says.
“We really see our soils as the foundation, and everything else grows on top of that, literally and metaphorically.”
Cover crops, organic manures, and a varied rotation that can be adapted to the season and market fundamentals, are central to this focus, as is a flexible cultivations policy that includes direct drilling, minimal tillage, and deeper cultivations where needed.
“I’m very fortunate to have a choice of establishment methods, whether a zero-till drill or a one-pass drill. It’s a real luxury to be able to choose the right tool for the job, crop and conditions.”
Traditionally, spring barley has been established after ploughing overwintered stubbles in the spring, but for the first time in 2022, Mr Bell tried direct drilling all of his spring barley into a grass and clover cover crop. It is a method he has successfully adopted in winter cereals, but for spring barley, he acknowledges it has been a learning curve.
Cover was sprayed off with glyphosate in early spring once conditions started to warm up, then drilled when it started to die back, using variable seed rates from a base of 425 seeds/m2.
“But, my seed rate was too low for the ability of spring barley in that situation. This was true of all three barley varieties we grew, as spring barley is less vigourous than winter wheat and, in my opinion, it needs some tilth to develop effectively.”
Crops therefore fell short of his target plant population, resulting in yields below par across all spring barley varieties last harvest, averaging just shy of his expected 7-8 t/ha.
“I relied too much on the root mass [of the cover crop] to do the tillage for me, but have learnt from that. We didn’t have a viable enough establishment area for the seed, so next spring I shall again be direct drilling into fields with green cover on them, but will do a shallow 25mm cultivation pre-drilling to create a tilth to help barley establish. We will also look at a more diverse cover crop in the future.”
Fitting into the rotation
LG Diablo will again be Mr Bell’s main spring barley variety grown for harvest 2023.
“One of the huge benefits of LG Diablo, especially in a mixed farming situation, is that it’s a high yielding spring barley variety, and if we do get it wrong in terms of nitrogen being too high for distilling or brewing, we still have a good feed crop. It’s dual purpose in that respect too, creating a circular economy within our own farm.
“Every farm and field is different though, and it’s up to us as growers to select the right tool for the right job, or the right variety for the right market or ground conditions.
“We have to look at our market, select our crop and variety against what our ground is capable of delivering, and LG Diablo fits that bill for me.”