Malt barley yields closing in on feed varieties

Irrigation Crop Diversification Corp. researchers in Sask. are also looking for the best time to spray durum for fusarium

OUTLOOK, Sask. — Higher-yielding malting barley varieties could lead farmers to grow them even if they aren’t guaranteed malt quality.

Agronomy research underway at several sites in Saskatchewan is comparing newer malt varieties that promise higher yields with feed varieties that do yield higher.

Garry Hnatowich, research director at the Irrigation Crop Diversification Corp. in Outlook, said the study involves two different seeding rates — one and three bushels per acre — of the feed variety Austenson and the malt ingvariety Bow.

There are also three nitrogen applications of 75, 100 and 125 pounds.

“The old adage is if you cannot produce malt barley 50 percent of the time you are growing it, you’re better off economically to growing higher yielding feed varieties and selling that into the market,” Hnatowich said.

Feed prices are lower, but that is offset by the yield.

However, breeding programs have developed malting barley varieties with yields nearing that of the best feed types, he said.

“If that’s the case, you’re better off producing that malt barley variety and having a chance of getting malt quality,” he said.

“If you don’t get it you’re still getting the yield and the quality entering the feed market.”

This is the first year for the research, which is being funded by SaskBarley.

Another cereal trial underway in conjunction with the Agriculture Development Fund is examining CDC Desire durum and fungicide applications to combat fusarium.

AAC Synergy malt barley yields about 120 percent more than industry standard AC Metcalfe. | Michael Raine photo

This is the third year of the project, which involves a low seeding rate of less than one bu. and a higher rate of three bu. per acre. Researchers are looking at time to flowering and how long the blooms are staying open.

The first single application of Caramba is at head emergence, then early flowering, full flower, late flower and one that doesn’t get fungicide until the milk stage.

“The sixth one, we’re coming in at early flowering and then again with a second application at milk,” said Hnatowich.

“One is an absolute control, so it is never sprayed, and there is another check that is sprayed every time, so it ends up with six.”

Conditions were wet during the first year of the study, and while the six applications could reduce fusarium, the crop still couldn’t be sold into the market, he said.

Last year was so dry and windy that no humidity built in the crop canopy. Fusarium could be reduced but wasn’t a huge problem to begin with, he said.

“We’re hoping for a more normal year,” Hnatowich said of this growing season.

He also said researchers are able to apply fungicide outside the label requirement of full flowering because funding agencies can allow that.

A SaskWheat funded project at eight locations is evaluating seeding rates and nitrogen rates with a goal of improving protein content.

The nitrogen rates are 75, 100 and 150 pounds. Then, post-anthesis, or after flowering, the wheat is top-dressed with UAN liquid nitrogen, dribble banded at about 30 pounds.

“That top-dressed application will take the low (rate) one and put it up to mid rate, and put mid rate up to the high,” Hnatowich said.

“What we’re trying to do is boost the protein content and maintain some yields. The intent there is to move it down through that canopy to the ground and let the roots access it.”

As a comparison, a flat jet spray application is also being used.

Outlook is the only research site that is conducting these trials under irrigation. Dryland sites include Melfort, Prince Albert, Indian Head, Redvers, Yorkton, Scott and Swift Current.

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