HIGH GRAIN yield and plenty of straw for bedding is the promise behind a fairly new spring-sown feed barley, Evelina.

Launched by family-run Lincolnshire business, Cope Seeds and bred by Saatzucht Edelhof, in Austria, the variety is to be marketed to a wider audience via Mole Valley Farmers.

It’s being sold unashamedly as an out and out livestock farmers variety because it has been shown to be easy to grow, with outstanding straw yield.

Hampshire arable farmer, Richard Monk has been growing Evelina for three years with positive results. “Overall it’s an easy to grow and a tidy feed variety to go into ration mixes. It combines well and produces a good-looking grain with a decent specific weight as well as a good straw crop.”

He farms combinable crops on 1250 ha of mostly Hampshire chalkland, some of which is contract farmed. “In 2016, we grew 36ha and then increased it to 41ha in years two and three.

“In 2017 we achieved just over 7.5 tonnes per ha and in the dry and challenging harvest of 2018, the crop yielded 7.27t/ha. This year the crop was a second barley, so a slightly lower yield was expected and we had 7t/ha and plenty of straw.

“Straw has been plentiful each year and we sell ours to a contractor. In a year when straw length was short, due to the drought, we produced just under 3t/ha in 2018,” added Richard.

In terms of inputs, he said it was straightforward to grow. “We’re putting on approximately 150kg of nitrogen without any manures and generally inputs are simple as it has reasonable disease scores. It’s taller than the recommended varieties and it has good lodging resistance – which is why it appeals to mixed farmers.

“We grow it for seed, so don’t need height, which is easy to manage with a growth regulator if needed. Our approach is for a small amount of growth regulator at the T1 stage, together with fungicide and trace elements, followed by a bit more growth regulator and fungicide to control brackling just before awns emerge. A T2 spray of fungicide and trace elements finishes the spray programme,” he said.

“Ultimately it performs well against other spring barley varieties on my farm and has all the characteristics a livestock farmer is looking for,” adds Richard.

James Henderson, from Mole Valley, is confident that Evelina is ideal for livestock farmers. “Looking ahead, spring barley will continue to be the most popular with the livestock farmer wanting a quality grain and plenty of straw. Straw in particular will be equally important, if not more so, to replenish stocks after being in such short supply in 2018.”

When compared in 2014 with nine varieties from the 2014/2015 Recommended List, Evelina produced competitive yields, the tallest straw, highest specific weight and was the earliest to mature.

“Its superb disease resistance makes it a versatile variety suitable for growing in all regions across the UK. The growth rate and establishment of Evelina was found to be much quicker than other varieties, together with strong tillering characteristics, making it especially competitive to any weed contamination,” he added.

“Those that have previously grown Westminster, Dandy or Hart, have been able to switch to Evelina without losing any of the characteristics that had attracted them to those former varieties.”

Trevor Cope, from Cope Seeds, added: “It has shown outstanding disease resistance, with no weaknesses and the grain was of the highest specific weight and the lowest screening losses. With numerous satisfactory comments about Evelina from all over the UK in the past three years, we feel it is a variety well suited to mixed farming where it offers so many positive traits.”