Advanced agronomics for barley production
Higher market value for feed barley headed into the 2019 season has sparked discussion on whether we will see an increase of barley acres seeded in Alberta. Along with increased acres will come a desire to push yields with advanced agronomics such as higher seeding rates, in-crop nitrogen and multiple fungicide applications. But will these provide yield benefits worth pursuing? Over the 2014 – 2016 seasons, research was funded in part by Alberta Barley and the Alberta Wheat Commission to determine just that. Led by Dr. Sheri Strydhorst of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and Laurel Thompson, then the Masters of Science graduate student on the project (now the Crop Researcher at Lakeland College), advanced agronomic trials were conducted in Lethbridge (dryland and irrigated), Killam, Bon Accord, and Fahler on the feed barley variety Amisk.
The trial investigated four levels of post emergence nitrogen, two seeding rates and four foliar fungicide treatments. Rainfall during the trials ranged across sites from 4” to 16” and disease ratings ranged from zero to 14 percent (relatively small).
- In-crop nitrogen with surface broadcast undiluted liquid UAN (28-0-0) at BBCH 30 (beginning of stem elongation). These rates are in addition to nitrogen applied at the time of seeding as granular urea for all treatments, targeting area average yields:
- 0 kg N ha-1
- 34 kg N ha-1 (30 lbs N ac-1)
- 64 kg N ha-1 (60 lbs N ac-1)
- 34 kg N ha-1+ Agrotain urease inhibitor
- Seeding rates targeting:
- 240 plants m-2 (current AF recommended rate for feed barley)
- 355 plants m-2 (1.5x the recommended rate)
- Fungicide application:
- Twinline at flag leaf (Growth stage BBCH 39)
- Prosaro at head timing
- Twinline at flag leaf + Prosaro 2 weeks later
- Off the bat, seeding rate did not affect yield. The 240 plants m
Off the bat, seeding rate did not affect yield. The 240 plants m2target seeding rate was sufficient from a yield standpoint. The 355 plants m-2target seeding rate did however decrease days to maturity from 99.0 days to 97.7 days. In-crop nitrogen provided yield increases of 5.6 per cent (30lb N ac-1) and 7.1 per cent (60lb N ac-1) compared to the control, but only in sites that received greater than 11” of precipitation during the growing season. Notably, application of in-crop nitrogen in hot and dry conditions caused a yield drag, resulting from leaf burn to the plants. As for the Agrotain, no yield benefit was observed.
For the fungicide applications, there was no difference in yield between the flag and leaf timing applications which, on average, increased barley yields by 3 per cent. This however, comes with a caveat. Disease pressure during the trial was low and the variety used (Amisk) has a strong disease package. Between these two points, yield benefit to fungicide was non-economical. It is notable that the study was conducted on fields that had rotational history representative of most fields in Alberta (infrequent barley in rotation). However, a field situation with a short barley rotation, higher disease pressure, and a less than optimal disease package may provide a more economical response to fungicide.
What does this mean for you? For maximum yield response, 240 plants m-2is appropriate and a fungicide application should be carefully considered accounting for disease pressure, rotation, and variety selection. If you have not grown barley in your rotation for a number of years, it is likely that a foliar fungicide application may not be economical. In-crop nitrogen should only be considered in areas receiving greater than 11” of rainfall. Outside of this scenario, you will likely be left with less money in your pocket or even a lower yielding crop if the UAN is applied during times of crop stress. Keep in mind, these trials did not compare the economics of additional in-crop nitrogen versus additional nitrogen with the seed. Comparisons made were between no in-crop nitrogen and additional in-crop nitrogen. Careful consideration should be taken if proceeding.
Alberta Barley is supporting two new projects with the goal of increasing feed barley yields, led by Laurel Thompson, beginning in 2019. These projects, located in Vermilion, Forestburg, Barrhead and Lethbridge are examining the potential for high yielding malt varieties to be managed for feed end use. The end goal is to provide Alberta farmers with avenues to increase the profitability of feed barley production.
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