Barley Can Be Best Second Cereal

June 2013

New data from joint ADAS/KWS trials suggests that barleys can be the best bet in the second cereal slot, offering gross margin advantages of over £300/t over the best wheats.

The work, completed last harvest, commissioned ADAS to run a three year replicated trial at Rosemaund growing winter barley varieties side by side with the best second wheats.† It was replicated by KWS at Cambridge over the same three seasons.

The wheats and barleys were given a belt and braces crop production programme to test their true potential in a second cereal situation – a protocol that included take-all protection on the wheats from Latitude treated seed.

According to project coordinator, KWS product development manager, John Miles, the aim was to ensure inputs weren’t limiting and that each crop was pushed hard for yield. Winter wheats received 220kg/ha N, the barleys, 40kg/ha less; wheats had T0, T1, T2 and T3 sprays costing approximately £90/ha, the barley’s three fungicides at £60ha.

In all but one of the six trial comparisons over the three contrasting seasons, the two-row barleys KWS Cassia or KWS Glacier outyielded winter wheats including Grafton and JB Diego.

“While we knew that the barleys had the potential to perform we were surprised at their relative yields compared to the best second wheats,” he says.† “Across the three years, the winter barleys were, on average, 1.5t/ha ahead of the second wheats.† That’s a significant yield advantage and one that cannot be ignored.”

Applying a mid-September delivered price for both crops across the three years, winter barley gave a mean gross margin – without factoring in the value of any straw – that was £270/ha ahead of second wheat.

“If straw is included, the value of barley as a second cereal improves still further,” says Mr Miles. “While values will vary according to season and crop location, figures from John Nix’s Farm Management Pocketbook suggest that the average additional value of barley over wheat straw over the last ten years is worth an extra £37/ha.

“Factor this into the equation across both sets of trials and the gross margin from a feed barley crop increases and generates significantly more than that secured by the best second wheat varieties,” he says.