Safeguarding yield and quality will be pivotal in what could be a competitive spring barley grain market this harvest, is the message from agronomy experts.

This includes proactively minimising stress on the crop after the wet winter. “Spring barley has to hit the ground running,” explains ProCam’s Justin Smith. “But it’s also a crop that’s very sensitive to stress.

“Soils and seedbeds compromised by wet weather aren’t the perfect entry for it and crops on heavy land originally destined for winter wheat could be hardest hit.”

Soil testing

To minimise nutrient stress, ProCam’s Alistair Gordon urges growers to start with soil testing, to ascertain the levels of soil nutrients that are currently available to the plant.

“Manganese, copper and zinc are typical trace elements that should be addressed in spring barley,” says Alistair. “A lack of copper and zinc can reduce yield by restricting grain numbers in ears – I’ve had situations where good doses of these have been applied, but harvest grain analysis still showed they were lacking.

“I normally add nutrition products twice – with the post-emergence herbicide and with the first fungicides – as two lower doses are better than one hit. As well as applying nutrients, I think it’s a good idea to stimulate rooting so the plant can better access nutrients and moisture from the soil,” he explains.


To boost rooting and to help early utilisation of nitrogen, Alistair says he’s had success with an early dose of the foliar-applied phosphite and pidolic acid treatment, Incite, with independent evaluation showing a lateral root length increase of more than 40%.

“We’ve also been looking at the seaweed and amino acid-based biostimulant, Zodiac, with results showing similar root length benefits, but with amino acids providing good stress mitigation properties.

“If you find yourself with a thin spring barley crop with a poor plant stand, either from difficult seedbed conditions or a low seed rate, a biostimulant can also improve tillering, helping to fill in the gaps. By alleviating stress, you also aid the plant’s natural disease defences. Ramularia symptoms, for example, are triggered by stress,” says Alistair.

Plant growth regulators

Justin adds that applying a suitable plant growth regulator (PGR) can also improve rooting plus stem strength, although PGRs should be tailored to individual fields.

“As well as the variety’s lodging risk, factors such as fertile sites, exposed sites, and higher nitrogen (N) rates also increase lodging pressures. If applying less N for lower grain N malting markets, lodging pressure should be lower.

“However, later planted spring barley can be at greater lodging risk because it races through its growth stages, creating weaker stems. Because it’s harvested later, it’s also exposed to later adverse weather,” concludes Justin.