Experience counts when selecting spring barley
A deterioration in weather and field conditions over the past week has limited the amount of field work going on and has impacted on the appearance of winter crops.
And while ploughing is in full swing, it should be avoided in poor conditions as this will impact on crop performance. If conditions pick up again, planting of wheat should commence, but be careful if planting winter varieties of wheat.
Generally, it is not a problem planting winter varieties in February if it is cold enough for vernalisation. However, once temperatures improve you should switch to spring varieties. Over the years, in the south and east, I have seen winter wheat crops planted in the middle of February failing to get past the vegetative growth stage with no consequent ear development and no grain harvest.
Sowing rates for wheat should be up to 170kg/ha (11 stone/ac) and while it is still a little early to sow spring barley, the rates for this should be at least 155kg/ha (10 stone/ac). You can continue to sow beans for the month of February at 185-215kg/ha (12-14 stone/ac). These should be planted deep to reduce the risk of bird damage.
It is generally accepted that fertility levels have started to drop in tillage areas. This is particularly so with the loss of the beet crop and this may be one of the reasons why proteins in malting barley have been so low for the last few seasons. When your soil phosphorus (P) index is 1 or 2, it is preferable to apply the P with the seed. Combine drills, while no longer popular, are ideal in situations where P indexes are particularly low.
The Department of Agriculture spring barley Recommended List for 2012 advocates four varieties (Cropton, Frontier, Quench and Snakebite) and two with provisional recommendations (Propino and SY Taberna). In actual yield terms, there is little to choose between the six varieties.
I would give preference to the variety that you have experience with and has given you good results in the past. The two provisionally recommended varieties, Propino and SY Taberna, have good resistance to rhynchosporium and net blotch.
With the increase in acreage of winter cereals and oil-seed rape there will be a lower demand for spring barley this season and I understand that there will be a plentiful seed supply.