Agronomy Advice
February 27, 2024

How to Maximise Spring Barley Productivity

With so many farmers struggling to get onto their fields to drill winter wheat due to the wet weather, many are turning to spring barley as an alternative crop.

Spring Barley Fields in Scotland
Spring Barley Fields in Scotland

Of course the laws of supply and demand have therefore inflated the price of spring barley seed. So, we need to concentrate on getting the most from your investment, not just from the seed, but on any inputs you might need to grow a healthy, bountiful crop.

Here are some tips to help you maximise yield and quality at the same time:

  1. Split fertiliser application - Don’t apply all the fertiliser to the seed bed. Trials have shown that splitting fertiliser applications will maximise yield.
  2. Apply an NPKS in the seed bed - Phosphate is important to help establish the spring barley crop, it’s crucial for root development. Sufficient phosphate will allow a good root system to grow which will then support a faster growing canopy allowing the crop to build biomass.
  3. Don't forget about sulphur - Sulphur is essential for yield and protein metabolism, but it also improves nitrogen use efficiency ensuring that you make the most of every bit of nitrogen you have invested in for the benefit of your crop.
  4.  Avoid micronutrient deficiencies - Rather than waiting for deficiencies to occur (by which time it’s often too late to fix), head it off by applying a micronutrient mix that supports spring barley growth such as YaraVita Gramitrel which contains magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc.

The most important thing for a spring barley crop is helping it develop a productive leaf canopy and keep it photosynthetically active for as long as possible all the way through to harvest. We definitely need to avoid early dieback of the canopy. The only way to do this is to provide it with the right nutrients at the right time.

Yara's Recommendation

The best way to calculate how much nitrogen your spring barley crop will need is to consider the economic optimum when reviewing crop and fertiliser prices. We have a freely available spring barley N-response calculator to check the economic optimum rate. 

Trials have shown that the best fertiliser programme splits the fertiliser application across the growing season. By splitting the application, we can meet the crops nitrogen demand with supply. We’d recommend applying 60-70% in the seedbed using an NPKS product such as YaraMila 52S. This would then be followed up by the balance of the nitrogen as a second application at GS12-14 using YaraBela Axan. To avoid the effects of micronutrient deficiencies, apply YaraVita Gramitrel at GS30-32 at 2l/ha.

Ultimately, there are two main things to concentrate on getting right when growing a spring barley crop:

  1. Supporting the initial, vigorous growth with enough nitrogen and micronutrients to keep it growing its valuable green canopy.
  2. Maintaining the canopy for as long as possible.

Achieve these two things and you'll be rewarded with good yields.