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Trials shows that winter malting barley can deliver for grain growers

Source: Agriland

The potential to grow winter malting barley varieties in Ireland was highlighted at a webinar, hosted by Teagasc earlier this week.

Also profiled at the event was the ‘anomalous impact’ of fertiliser nitrogen when applied to winter barley crops of all types during the 2021 growing season.

Specifically, two trials – one focusing on feed barley, the other on malting barley varieties – delivered results indicating that crop response to nitrogen showed no signs of levelling off, even when application rates exceeded 180kg/ha.

Teagasc’s Dr. Richie Hackett commented:

“Normally, we would have expected crop responses to level off, once nitrogen application rates reach 160 kg/ha.

“For some reason, this didn’t happen in either of the winter barley trials carried out this year.”

No explanation was given as to why this had happened. However, Hackett did stress the need for trial results to be assessed in the round, over a number of years.

Malting barley trial

Last October marked the commencement of a long-term malting trial at Teagasc Oak Park, designed to assess the feasibility of growing winter barley varieties under Irish conditions. The work is being funded by Boortmalt.

Hackett commented: “There is a growing interest in winter malting barley. However, little research has been carried out into crops’ potential in this country.

“The latest trial work has been designed to assess the potential of existing and potentially new varieties in this context.”

The varieties included in the ongoing trial are: Craft; Electrum; Vessel; Joyau; the numbered variety 4065322; and Valerie. 

Nitrogen application rates ranged from 135kg to 180kg/ha. Joyau and the numbered variety are both six-row barleys.

Vessel is a non genetically modified (GM) variety, potentially opening up its use within the distilling market.

Valerie is a non malting variety, which acted as a control for the purposes of the trial.

Date of sowing

All the crops followed a winter wheat and were sown into a medium textured soil.

All the varieties were sown out on  October 13, 2020 at a seed rate of 350 seeds/sqm. Nitrogen application rates ranged from 135kg up to 180kg/ha.

The fertiliser was applied as CAN across two equal splits on March 3 and March 24, 2021. A standard spray programme was implemented across all the trial plots.

The final yields obtained across all the trial sites were very reasonable, ranging from 9.0-11t/ha, depending on the amount of nitrogen.

Hackett continued:

“When averaged over the four nitrogen rates used, there was not a huge difference in yield from a varietal point of view.”

The top yield achieved came in at 10.6t/ha for the numbered variety. Vessel was the lowest yielding variety, averaging in the region of 9.7t/ha.

However, Richie Hackett said that yields achieved under field conditions would be relatively lower.

He continued: “Although we got what seemed to be an unusual response from nitrogen, the yield ranking of Joyau and Valerie were in line with what would have been expected from the recommended list data.

“This gives confidence that the malting trial results achieved are reasonably representative.”

Protein values

Where protein values are concerned, all the varieties came in below the 9.5% brewing threshold. The one exception was the Vessel trial, which received 180kg of nitrogen.

Hackett commented: “As most barley growers will be aware, this was a low protein year.

“Based on these results, malting barley growers might think that they should be putting more nitrogen on their crops in 2022. However, this would not be the thing to do at all.

“Deriving long-term trends from the results achieved from one site in one season is very dangerous,” he concluded.