Spring barley – a tale of two crops

The lustre has come off spring barley production, particularly where mid-April sown crops are concerned, according to the Enniscorthy-based Teagasc tillage advisor Ciaran Hickey.

“It really is a tale of two crops,” he said.

“I walked through crops of mid to late-April sown barley a few days ago. Many of the plants were no more than nine inches tall with the awns already peeping through.

“This compares with March sown crops, sown in the same area, which were over waist-high and extremely healthy looking.”

Hickey believes that the later sown barley has suffered from a combination of moisture and trace element stress. Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) attack is also very apparent in many of these crops.

“Where severe BYDV is visible, it can be a real yield robber. In many instances, there is little that growers can do to improve this situation,” Hickey said.

He believes that these later sown crops have been genetically programmed to rush through their various growth stages, without having the opportunity to mature properly.

“The extremes of weather, which led to fluctuating wet and dry conditions, have also played a role in this regard.

Poor growth is one issue. Of equal importance is the fact that these stunted crops would have received the same level of inputs as that applied to crops that are on target to produce good yields.

Hickey said that the generality of spring barley crops are now reaching the ‘awns-emergence’ stage.

“It is critical that crops receive their most important fungicide spray over the coming days.

“There is a significant threat from ramularia at the present time. This is the fungus that creates leaf spot, a disease that will act to significantly reduce yields by the loss of green leaf area within the crop canopy.

“There are no curative spray mixes, where ramularia is concerned. Disease prevention is the only option. But the good news is that a spray mix which includes chlorothalonil will provide high levels of crop protection.”