3rd February 2022

Spring vigour makes LG Diablo firm favourite for Borders grower

Strong early vigour, consistency and ease of management are three reasons why LG Diablo has become the top spring barley choice for one Berwickshire grower.

Will and Annabel Hamilton, of Bee Edge Farm, grow 200 ha of spring barley for Simpsons Malt across 1,200 ha of mostly contract farmed land, close to the East coast near Eyemouth. Soil type is predominantly sandy loams, with many fields more suited to spring barley than winter wheat.

LG Diablo makes up almost two-thirds of his entire spring barley area (120 ha), with the remainder down to the heritage variety Golden Promise, grown for the craft brewery market.

LG Diablo is the best spring barley variety I’ve ever grown on this farm,” Mr Hamilton says. “It’s easy to grow, consistently produces distilling quality and has set spring barley yield records on every single farm we’ve grown it on.”

Indeed, the variety won the Hamiltons’ two Bronze Awards in their first year of entering the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) competition in 2021, with a crop that yielded 8.7 t/ha, equivalent to 64% of the 13.5 t/ha potential yield.

Quality was pleasing too, with a specific weight of 64.3 kg/hl, 1% screenings and 1.43% grain nitrogen. “For us, that’s a good spring barley sample, and is fairly typical of the analysis we usually get from LG Diablo.”


Up and away

Mr Hamilton believes a key reason for LG Diablo’s strong performance over the past two seasons is its early vigour, which helps crops establish quickly in the spring and make the most of the shorter growing season.

“Early vigour is really important to us, especially as we often get long spells of cool easterly winds off the North Sea during the spring which can check some spring barley. But LG Diablo is pretty vigorous and seems to be much less affected by such conditions.”

All spring barley is established using a traditional system, with land ploughed in the autumn, before power harrowing and combination drilling in spring at a seed rate of around 400 seeds/m2.

“We like to wait until the soil has warmed up as this helps barley come through and get away quickly. That usually means drilling around the second half of March, depending on the season.

“It’s important to create a really good seedbed with a nice fine tilth, into which seed can be sown fairly deep – typically around 30 mm – to ensure there’s good moisture availability for germination.

Seed is dressed with a trace element mix plus growth promoter to help improve establishment, and a nitrogen, phosphate and potash-based seedbed fertiliser is also included at drilling. Once tramlines are visible, Muriate of Potash (MOP) is variably applied where required, based on soil test results. Spring barley typically receives around 110-120 kg N/ha in total.

Mr Hamilton says LG Diablo has proved fairly easy to manage in terms of disease control, with two fungicide sprays usually applied. The first goes on at growth stage 31, with a post-emergence herbicide and trace element mix included where needed, before a second broad-spectrum fungicide is applied prior to ear emergence.

He acknowledges LG Diablo is two to three days later maturing than some other varieties, but says this has not been an issue in the past two seasons. Last year’s YEN crop was harvested on 28 August, which was a fairly typical harvest date for spring barley in that area.

“We find LG Diablo reliable, consistent and high yielding, and some of the reason for that is down to the early vigour the variety shows,” he concludes.

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