By Professor Fiona Burnett and Dr Steve Hoad,

SRUC for the Farm Advisory Service

Very little early drilling has been possible in the wet conditions that have been endured this winter, but late drilling is not always the worst option for spring barley and crops drilled all the way through April often do as well or better than those puddled in to wet cold February soils.

Crops drilled in good ground conditions and warming soils can rapidly catch up. Obviously, the later the crop is drilled the less opportunity for tillering there is and so seed rate might need to be adjusted.

Late drilled crops that are growing rapidly are likely to be at lower risk of early disease and there is scope to reduce or omit early fungicides, particularly on more resistant varieties, and focus on the later booting spray to manage ramularia and late disease.

As ever, market is key. The malting interest will be dominated by Laureate, which had two-thirds of the Scottish malting intake from harvest 2019. LG Diablo is developing its market share and has full approval for malt distilling, plus it has similar agronomic features to Laureate with a reasonable disease profile but with higher yield.

Other malting varieties for 2020 will be KWS Sassy and Sienna, and both are fully approved for malt distilling. Both varieties have good grain quality features – Sienna has excellent specific weight, whilst KWS Sassy is relatively early to mature.

Fairing retains its position as a specific use variety for the high grain nitrogen requirement of the grain distilling sector. Although lower yielding than malt distilling varieties, Fairing has good disease resistance allowing for reduced fungicide inputs and it is also early maturing.

New varieties added to the recommended lists are SY Tungsten and Firefoxx. SY Tungsten is undergoing tests for both malt distilling and brewing, whilst Firefoxx suits malt distilling. Both varieties have excellent treated yield and Firefoxx has earlier maturity compared to Laureate and LG Diablo which is usually a plus in Scottish conditions.

For brewing markets, the pick of the current options are RGT Planet and Propino, along with a newcomer called SY Splendor. All three varieties can also be considered for feed use. The preferred feed-only options are Scholar and the new variety, Prospect.