Spring barley growers using straw length or height as a guide
to varieties that will give them the greatest straw yield may not
be using the best indicator, independent farm trials managed by
Scottish Agronomy suggest.
Conducted near Forfar, the first trial compared three feed spring
barley varieties each with different crop heights on the HGCA Recommended
List 2006 – Waggon at 74 cm, Doyen at 71 cm and Riviera at
82 cm. At least 1 ha of each was grown, and both grain and straw
yield measured at harvest.
But instead of showing that straw yield increased with increasing
straw height, findings revealed it was more closely correlated
with grain output.
The tallest variety Riviera produced the lowest straw output at
3.5 t/ha, and also had the lowest grain yield at 6.3 t/ha.
Meanwhile the shortest variety Doyen produced the middle straw
output of 3.8 t/ha, and at a grain yield of 7.0 t/ha.
But the highest straw yield of all, at 4.8 t/ha, came from newcomer
Waggon, which produced 7.6 t/ha of grain.
A second trial, comparing Waggon and Doyen with spring malting
variety Chalice, currently being grown as an early maturing feed
type, also showed that straw output increased with increasing grain
“Common perception is that tall strawed varieties produce
more straw than short ones,” explains Scottish Agronomy managing
director, Andrew Gilchrist. “I know from experience that’s
not the case. Waggon is an example of a new feed variety that is
relatively short and stiff – as is Doyen.
“Where you’ve got livestock in the enterprise it’s
quite a bonus if you produce more straw,” he points out.
According to Simon Phillips, technical manager for breeder Syngenta
Seeds, who supplied seed of Waggon and Doyen for the work, results
could challenge many growers’ thinking.
“In this work, growing a shorter variety actually gave 1.3
t/ha more straw. At a straw price of say £20-70/t, depending
on time of year and location, that’s an extra £26 – £91/ha
return for the grower. That’s without taking into account
the extra grain.”
On the face of it, Mr Phillips admits these findings appear to
go against conventional wisdom. “But actually they’re
logical,” he stresses. “In order to produce a high
grain yield, a plant needs lots of biomass. And lots of biomass
means lots of straw. It’s got nothing to do with height whatsoever.
“With barley straw being so valuable, straw height has been
a big factor in determining variety choice on many farms. Now,
perhaps growers will question whether this is the right thing to
look at,” he adds.
Feed spring barley – results of straw yield trial
Straw yield (t/ha)
Grain yield (t/ha)
Source: Scottish Agronomy, Forfar
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