Consistency and reliability at the heart of spring barley variety choice this spring

Spring Barley

Please note that this article is specifically targeted at spring barley growers in England.

As we experience increasingly unpredictable climatic and market conditions, having a dependable crop is more important than ever. Luckily spring barley variety choice is one factor within our control and selecting those with a proven track record of on-farm performance, year-on-year, is the safest bet.

SYNGENTA has a long heritage in spring barley breeding dating back to 1979 and in this time have developed many very successful varieties including OPTIC, NFC TIPPLE, QUENCH and more lately the well-known variety LAUREATE.

LAUREATE – the top pick of the approved malting varieties

LAUREATE first joined the AHDB Recommended List back in 2016 but continues to be the most popular spring barley grown across the UK and the most popular variety purchased by maltsters. 

As the highest-yielding spring barley variety with full MBC malting approval for both brewing and malt distilling uses on the AHDB Recommended List, it is easy to see why LAUREATE continues to be so popular.  

The increased flexibility it can offer to growers by allowing access to either the brewing or malt distilling markets is something that cannot be ignored. 

High and stable yield performance 

When it comes to yield for the English spring barley market, LAUREATE sets the standard to beat. Compared to the other fully approved varieties for brewing, LAUREATE has the highest UK yield performance but also the highest Eastern and Western treated yield figures on the 2023 AHDB RL.  



Consistency and dependability have been key components of LAUREATE’s success - both in terms of on-farm performance and end-user quality. Again in 2022 we have seen an excellent performance from LAUREATE, outperforming its 5-year treated mean in AHDB Recommended List trials, this is despite many other varieties underperforming in this difficult season. 



An historical view of treated yield performance shows that this in nothing new. Since first entering AHDB Recommended List trials, LAUREATE has maintained a high level of performance despite the key competition declining in more recent years.  








LAUREATE has also maintained a strong, consistent, untreated yield performance level since first being sown in Recommended list trials in 2015. This is very much underpinned by its robust disease profile with current AHDB ratings including a 9 for mildew, 5 for brown rust and a 6 for Rhynchosporium. 













Unrivalled quality 

From an end-user perspective, LAUREATE is very much the variety of choice, with contracts widely available for 2023. Maltsters now purchase more LAUREATE than any another variety across England, this is in addition to Scotland, making up 48% of purchases from the harvest 2021 crop demonstrating the wide acceptance of the variety.


SY SPLENDOR - A high yielding option for feed and grass weed suppression


For those growers focusing solely on feed spring barley crops it is easy to make out-and-out yield the central consideration when selecting varieties, but let’s not lose sight of the wider benefits some varieties can offer.  

SY SPLENDOR, is a feed variety which was originally bred for the malting market. It continues to offer useful features that could appeal to feed barley growers. 

Key feed variety attributes: 

  • Consistent yields 

  • Excellent grain quality including a very high specific weight  

  • Excellent straw strength with high ratings for lodging and brackling 

In addition to consistent yields across all regions (102%) on the AHDB 2022 Recommended List, SY SPLENDOR offers growers excellent grain quality combined with robust straw characteristics.  

SY SPLENDOR has the third highest specific weight over all varieties on the 2022 AHDB Recommended List (68.1 kg/hl) and is rated a 7 for lodging and an impressive 9 for brackling. 



For many growers in England the challenge of controlling grass weeds, such as black-grass, is foremost in their minds. Spring cropping is a well-known method of reducing grass weed populations as it gives growers more time to remove an extra flush of weeds before sowing. On top of this, spring barley is a competitive crop and therefore a useful tool in suppressing grass weeds. 

But SY SPLENDOR goes further in the battle against grass weeds…. 

The vigorous growth habit, stiff straw and good brackling resistance seen in SY SPLENDOR are key features that provide further help in these situations. 


Early vigorous growth helps a variety to better compete against grass weeds from the beginning of the season – allowing good plant establishment before the grass weeds get a chance to compete. Stiff straw helps later in the season if grass weed populations are higher – as it can help the crop to better withstand grass weeds from pulling it down. 

The high specific weight we see in SY SPLENDOR is a very stable characteristic. Choosing a variety that starts with a high specific weight will help to mitigate against the competitive effects that grass weeds have for reducing crop grain-filling later in the season. 

Get ready for the new SYNGENTA spring barleys!!  

Two exciting new spring malting barleys from the SYNGENTA stable were added to the 2023 Recommended List last autumn. 

SY TENNYSON joined the new RL in an unrivalled yield position. With a UK treated yield of 105.2% it becomes the joint highest yielding malting variety and importantly the highest yielding variety with potential for both the brewing and malt distilling markets. It is also the highest yielding variety in both the East (106.7% CM) and North (105.6% CM) regions of the UK. 

SY TENNYSON continues to be tested through the MBC process to gain approval, but we can already see its very promising quality for both the brewing and malt distilling markets. With respect to the English brew market, SY TENNYSON has the highest Hot Water Extract figure available of any variety on the new AHDB Recommended List. 

SY SIGNET is a very high yielding spring malting barley under test for brewing with strong farmer focused agronomics and the potential for export. As with SY TENNYSON, we can see SY SIGNET demonstrating its yield consistency across differing seasons in both treated and untreated conditions.  

With respect to quality, SY SIGNET also has exceptional Hot Water Extract higher than all provisionally and fully approved brewing varieties, second only to SY TENNYSON on the 2023 AHDB RL. SY SIGNET has also demonstrated its pan-European adaptability and has now started registration trials across several European countries including Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Austria, Lithuania, Czech, Finland and Ireland, potentially opening the door to an exciting export market.