Sterile brome has become a major weed enemy for winter barley
While the weather has delayed the completion of the 2016 harvest, it was surprisingly better, yield wise, than expected. Even many late sown spring barley crops produced 3t/ac plus.
Arable areas continue to fall despite relatively good yields. The total cereal acreage fell again by 2.2pc from 2015 to 2016 despite very good yields in 2015. It is likely this trend will continue this season and highly likely that the big increases in winter barley plantings over the last few years will be reversed as a result of the better spring barley yields and returns compared to winter barley this year.
For those considering winter barley the temptation will be to sow early. However, experience has shown that very early sown winter barley can underperform. While early sowing leads to earlier growth, it also leads to greater lodging pressure, increased take-all and particularly higher incidences of barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) and disease. Delay sowing until late September or October. The use of Redigo Dieter is essential for early sowing.
There is a significant variation in seed size this year particularly between varieties. You should aim to establish 250-300 plants/m2 which will tiller to produce 1000-1200 heads/m2.
The conventional variety Cassia continues to perform well and will be about 25pc of the seed available, while Tower, also a conventional 2-row, will be the most plentiful (47pc) with Infinity (14pc) and Kosmos a 6-row (1pc) also available.
The hybrid 6-row varieties, Volume (4pc), Quadra (0.5pc) and the new Bazooka (6pc) offer growers the opportunity for higher yield, subject to higher management inputs.
The post mortems of the winter barley yields are in full swing. In my opinion the increased area of the crop over the last few years has resulted in more winter barley being sown on less suitable ground. In addition, management is more demanding, especially with hybrids. This harvest proved again that winter barley yields are better in fresh ground and particularly after break crops, indicating the effect of take-all.
Aphid control and, by association, BYDV control is extremely difficult especially in early-sown crops. However, the main reason for the poorer yields this harvest the loss of approximately 30pc of plants due to the wet winter. Barley does not like 'wet feet' and this crop appears to have suffered from this this year. Sowing in wet or relatively wet ground, where water lodges should be avoided at all costs.