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Keeping spring barley standing in Scotland

Agronomy Issues
Spring barley early emergence

With modern spring barleys delivering much higher yields, a number of varieties benefit from appropriate use of PGRs to improve standing power and ultimately grain quality at the end of the season. Whilst the Scottish area managed to plant a greater proportion of their planned winter cropping, there is still a large spring barley area this season.

A lot of the Scottish spring barley growers will be growing malting quality barleys, which makes it ever more important to keep the crop standing. Those that are replacing uncropped autumn land with spring barley may be looking to maximise yields and target the feed market. Pushing spring barley crops for yield with additional nutrients will also increase lodging risk which may also need management.

The past three spring seasons have had a wide range of weather conditions, from record high temperatures, to the Beast from the East; high rainfall and saturated soils, or periods of prolonged drought. That all has a significant effect on crop growth patterns and the demand of PGR options and timings. The key for PGRs is to adapt to the conditions of the season. Since spring barley has a very short growing season, it doesn’t have the chance to build up a significant rooting structure to give the resilience to spring/summer conditions that winter crops have.

Following a very wet autumn, an open spring is needed to get cereal crops into better conditions. However, we have now been met with prolonged periods without rain and emerging crops in real need of water. With growth potential currently reduced by sub-optimal growing conditions, it would be good to review the PGR approach as to not over-regulate the crop with PGRs if it continues to be dry.

Syngenta trials in 2019 started extremely dry, but then turned wet, and saw significant benefits of PGR use which reduced lodging by over 20% and brackling by around 15% in the higher seed rate plots. Where spring barley crops are actively growing and not stressed, the recommended PGR programme is for Moddus at 0.1-0.2 l/ha at the T0/T1 timing (GS30-32) to promote stem strength. In situations of high lodging risk, a follow up of ethephon + mepiquat chloride 0.5-0.75 l/ha at the T2 (GS37) would further reduce height and help to keep crops standing.

Even at very low rates, Moddus has been shown to be extremely effective in reducing lodging risk in spring barley. The key is to adapt the PGR programme and consider it as an insurance policy. Adapt to the season and the situation and cut back on rates and timings as over regulation has proven to have a negative impact on yield and quality.