Winter barley harvest is well ahead of schedule but yields vary
The winter barley harvest is almost over -two to three weeks ahead of target. Yields have been variable ranging from 2.5t/ac to slightly over 4t/ac.
Many farms will end up with yield averages of 3.2 - 3.6t/ac. Six-row hybrids have had mixed performances with conventional two-row varieties outyielding them, while on other farms they outyield the two-row crops by in excess of 0.5t/ac.
Bushels are generally good, largely due to low grain moistures. Most, of the yield variability is linked to moisture availability and upatake of that moisture by plants.
Pressures on root systems due to compaction, fusarium and waterlogging in the early part of the season and moisture stresses on thin soils had severe consequences.
The heavier moisture retentive soils are performing best. However, performance is very much linked to soil management. Where soils were abused or poorly managed in the past, yields are dramatically reduced.
Some of the mid-October sown crops, which may have been sown in an effort to meet conventional timings, into marginal soil conditions, are not performing as well as those sown in mid-November.
Most of the November-sown crops were sown into nice soils. Soil fertility certainly made a major contribution. Soils with low to high potassium levels performed well where high levels of K were applied (120-75 kg/ha). Most, if not all, of the higher yields came from land with soil index 3-4 for phosphate. Split applications of P and K, with up to 30pc of the requirement applied with the final nitrogen split, appears to have paid dividends. Soil pH is generally good where winter barley is sown so I am unable to comment on yield differences between high and low pH soils.
As in every year, responses to slurries are very evident. High soil moistures up to the end of April and early May allowed plants to pick up trace elements, except for highly deficient soils.