12th September 2022

Spring barley choice widens

Spring barley growers will have more marketing choices available to them with the recommendation of three new varieties for this spring.

Considering that the Scottish malt distilling market represents about 700,000 tonnes, grain distilling an additional 70,000 and wheat for distilling 550,000 – this clearly demonstrates the size and value of this market to the UK as a whole – and to us as plant breeders contends Lee Robinson, marketing director from Limagrain UK.

To this end, Limagrain has focussed on bringing varieties such as Odyssey, Chronicle and Overture to the market which demonstrate not just a step forward in terms of yield and agronomics, but a flexibility of marketing options.

Based on a parentage of Concerto X Quench, these ‘sons of Concerto’, demonstrate similar quality characteristics to Concerto, which is the only UK variety to have both IBD approval for brewing and distilling, and also French CBMO approval.

“Odyssey, Overture and Chronicle are currently the only three new varieties in IBD trials,” says Mark Glew, senior barley breeder for Limagrain. “Currently, Odyssey and Overture are suitable for brewing and distilling, however the extensive overseas evaluations we have carried out could create export markets in the near future. Overture in particular is generating the most interest in Europe. Chronicle is also suitable for brewing and distilling, but not yet developed overseas.”

“In our regional trials, we looked at how the varieties performed individually across a range of geographical locations; Odyssey and Chronicle performed well in the north with average yields of 108% and 107% respectively; demonstrating a distinct improvement on the brewing variety Propino (105%) and the distilling variety Concerto (101%). Odyssey also performed well in the east, along with Overture,” he adds.

 â€œIn terms of quality, all three varieties are GN-non producers but what we found breaking it down into specifics was that Odyssey and Chronicle  showed a low to medium SNR – ideal for distilling whilst Overture and Odyssey showed complimentary malting characteristics – suitable for malsters to meet their specifications.”

Ripening Scores“The characteristic that is critical to varieties grown in Scotland particularly, is the ripening score, as early ripening helps to minimise the risk of delayed harvests.

“We broke down the data behind the ripening scores for these three varieties to see if in fact there was any significant difference,” says Mr Glew. “What we found was really rather interesting – although all three varieties rate +1 for ripening, against the standard.” 

“Looking at the raw data with decimals, Chronicle was actually the earliest of the three at 149.5 days to ripening in comparison to the 150+ days for Odyssey and Overture This small difference may not look too exciting at first, but with ripening scores for malting varieties varying so little: from zero (149 days) to +1 (150 days), and the differences getting stretched further north, this demonstrates again Chronicle’s suitability to conditions in the north.”

Andy Stirrat of Fingask Farm, Rhynd, in Perth, is very clear on his requirements when choosing new barley varieties: “Where I farm up here in Perth, we can get unprecedented levels of rain– so the conditions are challenging and I need varieties that can cope with this.”

“What this means that when I am looking at new barley varieties, yield and disease resistance are important but equally as important will be ripening score. Up here two-three days can make all the difference to getting a crop harvested and the next one in.  In fact, should a variety have great yield and robust disease scores but a higher ripening score, I would have to think very carefully about if I would grow it, but a variety with a low ripening score and is earlier, but maybe not the highest yield, would always be considered,” he says.

“Last season with the wet weather setting in later in the summer, it really showed how valuable this characteristic is, as those who had earlier ripening varieties had more chance to get the crop harvested. Those that didn’t have probably still have barley sitting in the ground! In simple terms of farm management it also has an impact, for example if a variety is three days later then it could mean a clash with drilling oilseed rape.”

“We usually have about 45ha of our own spring barley in the ground, and 75h on contract. We have done well with Concerto, as this has a good combination of disease resistance, standing power and is relatively early. Luckily, I am also in a position where I can see varieties in trial, in situ here on the farm, as I host Limagrain and Frontier demonstration sites on the farm. These give me a good insight into current and upcoming varieties; I will be interested this spring to see some of the ‘sons of Concerto’ in trials and how they perform,” says Mr Stirratt.

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