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The basics of successfully establishing barley

The basics of successfully establishing barley

The basics of successfully establishing barley

Barley is a versatile crop in temperate New Zealand. It is a grass crop that can be grown to graze, conserve for silage or combine harvested for grain to be processed into animal feed or malting.

Whatever the end use, there is one main driver which is the same with any broad acre crop: yield. Yield dilutes the cost of production so it is crucial not to cut corners.

Ask yourself why you want to grow barley and if it is suitable for the intended end use. Is it for home consumption or to be sold? Are there any contracts available? Does your intended use require specialised machinery, such as a combine harvester or silage harvester? If yes, do you have access to this equipment?

Consider paddock selection. To grow a high-yielding barley crop, machinery is necessary so will the topography allow this? A flat, well-drained cropping paddock is ideal. Make sure you take a soil test to come up with a fertiliser and lime plan, remembering barley does not like soils that are too acidic, so aim for pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Remember agricultural lime takes six months to break down and have the desired effect on pH.

Barley hates compaction so if you have compaction or pan issues make sure you deep rip, or at least cultivate to the desired depth before creating your seedbed. This is why direct drilling generally does not provide as a higher-yielding crop as cultivating to create a firm fine seedbed.

Select a variety fit for the purpose and time of drilling. Take advice on an appropriate seed rate for the time of year. Too many seeds and the crop will be too thick, making it prone to disease and falling over. Too thin, and the crop will not yield and allows room for weeds to establish.

I would never plant a crop of barley without an appropriate fungicidal seed coating and insecticide and my advice to you is the same. The fungicide coating helps protect from soil and seed-borne diseases, maximising the rate of establishment and survival of the seedlings. The insecticide helps protect from pests that either eat the crop or spread the virus Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) which can rob crops of over 30 percent of the yield.

With spring-planted barley there is less requirement for a pre-emergent herbicide but apply early post-emergence as the weeds grow quickly.

Nitrogen application, foliar insecticides for aphid control and fungicide sprays contribute to producing a high-yielding barley crop. Their timing is critical, so seek the advice of your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.