Seed Industry

Get your spring barley off to a good start this spring

29 January 2024, UK: The difficult, and in some areas impossible, autumn drilling conditions for many growers will be the lasting memory of autumn 2023. While some further drilling of winter wheat is still a possibility where land dries out sufficiently, for many, spring cropping is quickly becoming the focus where seed availability allows.

  • Latest projections from the AHDB Early Bird survey, estimate an 11% rise in spring barley area, for 2024. Getting these crops off to the best start to help compensate financially for the difficult 2023 autumn has never been so important.
  • Achieving good plant populations is particularly important for spring barley, due to the crop having a shorter growing period which restricts its ability to compensate from sub-optimal establishment, compared to winter crops. 
  • Successful spring barley establishment is often determined by suitable seedbed moisture and good seed to soil contact at drilling. Where seed coverage and moisture at drilling are sub-optimal, plant counts, establishment and final yield can be negatively impacted.
  • Seed rates should be adjusted according to weather conditions, soil type and drilling date to ensure optimum plant establishment.
Syngenta have been conducting cultivation trials for the past 3 seasons investigating the impact of different cultivation systems on spring barley crop establishment. 
  • The trials showed the same as many farmers have experienced, that weather was the biggest influencing factor in crop establishment over different cultivations and had a far bigger impact than variety in these trials.
  • No-till and min-till systems clearly demonstrated their benefits in preserving soil moisture in dry years compared to more intensive soil disturbance methods. 
  • In wet springs and on certain soil types, the benefits of more intensive systems for improving seed to soil contact and reducing seedbed moisture can had real benefits for crop establishment. 
  • Choosing an appropriate tillage method for the soil type and weather conditions was key to establishment and therefore, yield of the spring barley.
  • The ability to be flexible in the establishment system used combined with good knowledge of individual field situations is key in many seasons.
Getting the seed rate right will optimise plant establishment and yield

The following table provides guidance on the seed rates for Syngenta spring barley varieties. The actual rate used should take into consideration seedbed quality and weather conditions.  A target of 775 shoots per m2 is optimum for spring barley establishment (AHDB Barley Growth Guide).

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