Winter barley yields mixed, but favour six-rows


Harvest results so far from AHDB variety trials suggest that six-row winter barleys are faring better than their two-row counterparts this season and that there is nothing to separate conventional and hybrid types.

As Table 1 shows KWS Astaire, a candidate conventional six-row from KWS is performing well, with yields of 110% of controls.

Within the two-row feeds California, KWS Orwell and KWS Infinity lead the group this season.

According to David Harrap, KWS barley breeder, the high temperatures of June are the reason why early varieties have done well so far this season. Met Office data for England shows that sunshine levels in May and June were above the 30-year average while July was below.

“As six-rows tend to reach ear emergence sooner than two-rows, they had begun grain-fill before the higher temperatures of June affected development. Once temperatures reach the high twenties [Centigrade], grain-fill duration is shortened, this was to the detriment of the later maturing varieties which would otherwise do well because of the longer growing period.”

Growers can expect to see more variability in the yield performance of this year’s winter barley as more results are published, says Mr Harrap with other factors, such as straw strength, playing a greater part as the season progresses.

“The spring drought, high June temperatures – England experienced the highest average June temperature since 1976 – and heavy summer storms will affect yields. With such changeable conditions growers should look closely at the regional data when reviewing their own performance.”

Table 1: Provisional Winter Barley RL 1-year results 2017: Treated grain yield (t/ha) – as % mean of controls. Non-control varieties ranked by 2017 mean yield.


Source: AHDB

The variability in regional performance is highlighted in Agrii winter barley trials. Across three sites, the results vary significantly with two-rows performing best in the east while six-rows dominate in the west and north of England. KWS varieties perform well across all sites with KWS Orwell at 113% controls in Swindon and KWS Cassia holding its own in Essex at 109% controls. It’s also a good year for KWS six-rows with Funky matching hybrid California in Yorkshire at 113% controls.


One grower whose experience matches that of official trials is Ben Larter of Plant Larter Farms near Framlingham, Suffolk.

Yields from this season’s winter barley were heavily influenced by variety, rotational position and soil type though he was surprised to see the best performance came from the last drilled crop.

On heavier soil and across three varieties, the highest yielding variety was the two-row KWS Tower at 10.49t/ha. This was closely followed by KWS Infinity at 10.4t/ha, grown on similar soil. On lighter land however, KWS Infinity’s yields fluctuated between 7.87 and 9.28t/ha.

In contrast, the hybrid variety Bazooka yielded less on average, but was also less variable. On the heavier ground where it was also grown as a second cereal, it recorded a weighbridge verified yield of 9.8t/ha and as a first cereal on the lighter land it performed marginally better with an average yield of 9.88t/ha.

“For a mid-October drilling after sugar beet the KWS Tower has performed impressively. We will keep with all three varieties next season to spread risk and maturity date,” says Mr Larter.