Tiller out to support spring barley yields
Spring barley growers should seek to manipulate the crops’ natural inclination to single stem dominance under the stress of cold conditions and dry soils this season, advocates David Howard, East Midlands-based Head of Integrated Crop Management for Hutchinsons.
“The later that stem extension is delayed by the conditions, the faster the crop will go through its growth stages to compensate. That’s likely to mean greater single stem dominance, and fewer tillers that are crucial for yield,” he warned.
“We need to even out that energy production across all the tillers and strengthen the stem base where the majority of leverage force will be exerted.”
David highlighted that most of the nutrition applied in the seedbed with spring crops will have yet to be mobilised, so when it does rain there could be a greater flush of growth, which could exacerbate the situation.
“Timing of PGR applications and tailoring rates to the seasonal conditions is going to be essential this spring,” he advised.
“With the short growing season we don’t want to do anything too aggressive and risk affecting crop compensation, but would be looking to do something at GS30 to manipulate the crop, and follow up with a T1 application if needed, according to season and soil type.”
With spring barley varieties and agronomy now capable of achieving higher yields on heavier soils, compared to traditional light soils, David pointed out the crop does require closer attention to PGR decisions to maintain potential and reduce lodging risk.
“On heavier soils there is typically greater availability of nutrients and moisture, leading to prolonged later growth as soils warm. There can be a long period of extension even after flag leaf emergence, which increases the risk of stem brackling.
“We can aim to reduce the height of the crop to cut leverage, but it’s also important to improve the strength at the base of the stem," he advised.
"A focus on managing slower growth from stage 30 to 32 can generate quality plant tissue lower down the stem, and to shorten the internodes.”
The use of trinexapac-ethyl in the spring can have valuable effects for energy remobilisation, to encourage and protect tiller formation and rooting, said David.
He believes spring barley has an increasing role for its rotational benefits, including grass weed control and risk management of diversifying the farm’s cropping. “The move to more min-till establishment demands greater flexibility in what to drill and when, particularly with current weather patterns.
“Rather than drill winter wheat in poor conditions, growers and agronomists recognise the value of waiting until the spring. This is not without risk with increasingly dry springs over recent years , as this season proves.
"However the potential to grow high yielding spring barley on non-traditional heavier land gives growers flexibility.”
David added: “The Syngenta support for variety profiling and better understating of rooting characteristics is very useful to be more specific with recommendations and rates for application.” Click here to use the InSpire App to find out more.