Getting the most out of your 2024 spring barley crop

Spring Barley

As we move into March, focus would normally turn to spring barley drilling. However, the ongoing wet conditions is making any thoughts of drilling for most growers an impossibility. What the weather does over the next few weeks will determine when most growers can finally get started on their spring drilling. 

Planting date is driven by that fine balance of having enough soil moisture for growth, but dry enough to travel and establish a good seedbed.  Often the first split of bagged nitrogen is added at or just after drilling, and again, good uptake is dependent on having the right level of soil moisture.

Different varieties are suitable for different end uses; the majority of spring barleys grown for malting in the UK are listed on the MAGB Malting Barley Committee Approved List: 

Malting Barley Committee Approved List Harvest 2024

 Winter Varieties for Brewing UseSpring Varieties for Brewing UseSpring Varieties for Malt Distilling UseVarieties for Special Use
Full Approval





RGT Planet 

LG Diablo



KWS Sassy

LG Diablo


FAIRING - Grain Distilling
Provisional Approval 2    
Provisional Approval 1Buccaneer





SY VESSEL - Malt Distilling

However, locally different maltsters will have preferred varieties and contracts, so it is important to check to ensure variety selection is suitable for your local maltster. 

  • LAUREATE has full MBC approval for brewing and malt distilling and is widely accepted across England and Scotland. Its consistent performance both on-farm and with end-users makes it the malting variety of choice.
  • FAIRING is the only grain distilling variety with MBC Special Use Approval for grain distilling in the UK and will have high N contracts available in different regions of Scotland, check locally for these contracts.
  • SY TENNYSON has created significant interest from across the malting industry as the next potential dual-purpose variety to partner LAUREATE in the marketplace. SY TENNYSON offers a combination of high yields and the leading malting quality profile, with the highest Hot Water Extract and Predicted Spirit Yield of any variety on the current Recommended List.


Market specifications

Local contracts for the malting varieties will specify the % grain nitrogen required along with other criteria such as screenings and specific weight.  Some varieties can be used for multiple markets, so getting the nitrogen right is key to gaining premiums for malting barley. 

It is essential to know the grain specifications you are aiming for and the exact requirements of your maltster. 

As a rule of thumb, malt distilling requires grain N below 1.65%, while growers of grain distilling varieties are typically aiming much higher with a target grain N over 1.85%. 

However, it is important to note these different market requirements can vary so always check locally with your intended maltster or your growing contract if you have one.

Tailoring nitrogen inputs in both rates and timings will help to achieve the required specification:

  • Low nitrogen contracts below 1.65%: Lower total N required, Syngenta trials found no significant difference in yield or % grain nitrogen between applying 100% in the seedbed or in 2 splits, applied before GS15. 
  • High nitrogen contracts above 1.85%:  Syngenta trials showed increasing total nitrogen has the biggest impact on grain nitrogen, but a later application can also help to boost it.

It is important to adapt to the crop as the season progresses.  Establishment rates and nitrogen applications will directly impact management of the crop canopy later in the season.  PGRs and fungicides will all need to be tailored to the season to keep the crop healthy and standing.

Always consult a qualified FACTS advisor when calculating nitrogen rates and timings, taking into consideration end market requirements and the fertility of the field. You must also work within any Government guidelines/restrictions.