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Matching winter crop and variety choice to drilling date

Agronomy Issues
BYDV infection on wheat leaves in ear
BYDV infection on wheat leaves in ear

If you’re facing problems such as BYDV and black-grass, there’s no doubt that delaying drilling is the better option. If you have grass weeds and delaying drilling isn’t possible, then winter barley (especially hybrid barley) will be a much better option than winter wheat because of its more competitive growth habit. Alternatively, in a higher BYDV risk situation with no or low grass weed problems, then winter wheat may be a better option if you can’t delay drilling (provided it is the right variety) – because it is less susceptible to BYDV. 

Winter wheat

“Where early-drilled winter wheat is appropriate (e.g. low grass weed pressure), ideal variety characteristics include slow over-winter development, stiff straw and 
robust disease resistance,” explains Tracy Creasy of Syngenta. “This is why GLEAM and GRAHAM fit well in this slot. They have performed strongly even when drilled in early September,” she adds. “Where delayed drilling is more appropriate, then faster development, good spring vigour and high tillering capacity are valuable variety characteristics – especially in grass weed scenarios where improved crop competition is useful. Vigour is also useful for crop resilience over winter. SY INSITOR and SHABRAS excel in later drilled scenarios, retaining excellent yield potential. “Meanwhile, GLEAM has high tillering capacity and retention, allowing it to have a wide drilling window,”  she adds.


Tracy Creasy 

Tracy Creasy, Marketing Manager for Conventional Cereals, Syngenta

Hybrid barley

Winter feed barley growers looking for varieties with drilling date flexibility should consider a hybrid, says Mark Bullen of Syngenta. Although hybrid barley can be drilled just as early as conventional winter barley, it can also be drilled 2-3 weeks later if needed, provided conditions are suitable, he points out. “If you’re using carryover seed from last autumn, it will be crucial to have it germination tested so seed rates can be increased if needed,” Mark explains. “Carryover seed also needs to be planted first so that it gets the best possible start.”
“Alternatively, with seed bought this autumn, while the latest that growers may want to plant conventional winter barley might be mid-October, depending on location, a hybrid could be drilled up to the end of October in suitable seedbed and weather situations. This is possible due to hybrid vigour – the strong growth and root development of hybrids. Useful spin-off benefits of later drilling include reduced pressure from BYDV and black-grass,” he adds. Key factors to get right if drilling hybrid barley later are to ensure crops go into high quality seedbeds and to use the correct seed rate and nitrogen programme. “Hybrid barley seed rates may need increasing from their normal low level of 200 seeds per metre squared to 225-250 seeds per metre squared. These higher seed rates should also be used in grass weed situations. Correct nitrogen application timings and dose rates in spring are also important to maximise yield potential and for grass weed suppression,” says Mark.

Mark Bullen 

Mark Bullen, Marketing Manager for Hybrid Barley, Syngenta