Malting barley to be as profitable as first winter wheat

Teagasc and Boortmalt have joined forces for the next three years. The aim of the project is to make malting barley as profitable as first winter wheat. Those were the words of Eoin Lyons, the malting barley advisor at the helm of the programme.

Monitor farms will form the basis of the programme and Teagasc will perform field scale trials on these sites. The malting sector is one that has been struggling in recent times, often surrounded by controversy. This new project will focus on what can be done in the field to make the crop more profitable.

AgriLand caught up with Eoin Lyons as he takes up his new role in Teagasc.

“The main aim of the programme is to make malting barley as profitable as first winter wheat; that’s the target that’s been set,” Eoin explained.

It’s not an easy target; but, by linking the different trials to profitability and looking at the other crops on the farm, we hope to be able to reach that goal.

Eoin Lyons, the new Teagasc malting barley advisor, out soil sampling

Monitor farms

“We’re setting up monitor farms in the south-east region – the traditional Boortmalt growing region,” Eoin noted.

Sites have been chosen in south Wexford; New Ross; Enniscorthy; just outside Carlow town; and Stradbally, Co. Laois.

“I’m co-ordinating all the monitor farms. At the minute we’re planning for the year ahead – getting the nutrient management plan and site selection for spring crops right.

“I’ll work on the profit monitor with the farmers and we’re discussing what trials we might do.

It’s very farmer specific; each farm will have different problems and we will be taking different approaches to rectify those problems.

“All the monitor farms have been soil sampled at this stage and we’ll be making use of the nutrient management plan and tailoring fertiliser advice to each specific farm.

teagasc

“The trials that we’re doing on the farm are field scale trials and we’re looking at things that we can improve on the farm as regards to fertiliser application and rates; seeding rates; and new varieties.”

There will be two visits to each farm in the year by discussion groups and a newsletter will be sent to all growers.

The newsletter will keep track of all the monitor farms, because there’s no point in having monitor farms if people don’t know what’s happening on them.

“It’s about keeping people informed more than anything else. In the growing season, we’ll be monitoring the crop on its normal management and what we might have tweaked.

“So, a farmer might put a trace element on the crop with one run of the sprayer and turn off the sprayer going back up the field. The trials will be practical for farmers to carry out.

“I’m just there to gather the information and to try and get it out through discussion groups and newsletters. We want to show what’s working and not working and other farmers might take up those practices,” Eoin added.

Winter malting varieties

While some Boortmalt suppliers grew malting barley in the winter in previous years, this year there are true winter barley varieties being grown – Pixel and Craft.

“There’s very little seed available this year, but we put them on the monitor farms to see how they would perform.”

Both varieties will be grown side-by-side in one field on each monitor farm and will be tested on performance.

The Pixel looks to have fairly good promise yield wise. We’ll see how it performs throughout the year.

Positive step

The reaction to the programme has been positive. He noted: “The monitor farmers are willing to take part to see can they improve profits.

“The vast majority appreciate that we’re trying to improve things. Teagasc is independent and I’m there to work on technical advice and improve profits through husbandry practices.

“I think any farmer appreciates advice on how to grow better crops and what’s coming back from the farms is positive.”

Soil sampling

Boortmalt is offering farmers a reduced rate on soil samples and Eoin encouraged all suppliers to avail of this offer.

“Boortmalt is running an offer where they’re giving reduced rate soil samples on one-third of your malting barley area each year for the next three years; so the hope is that after three years, the whole area on the farm will be sampled.

That offer is there now ready to go and that’s a positive move for anyone who isn’t on a monitor farm.