Wexford farmers attend malting barley seminar
Farmers from across the south east attended the Malting Barley Seminar organised by Teagasc in the Millrace Hotel in Bunclody recently.
The seminar took place against the backdrop of low incomes for tillage farmers. However the demand for malting barley continues to grow with the distilling sector on an upward trajectory.
Michael Hennessy, Head of the Teagasc Crops Knowledge Transfer Programmme said: 'Teagasc have a commitment to support the malting barley sector to develop and meet the demands coming from industry.'
The seminar focussed on the technical aspects of producing malting barley for brewing (beer) and distilling (whiskey) markets.
'The variety plays an important part for a grower to successfully deliver malting barley,' according to Seamus Kearney, from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine's variety testing section. 'Growers should consider all the characteristics of the crop including straw, disease resistance, etc and adjust management to ensure yield and quality are maintained.'
Ciaran Collins, Teagasc Specialist provided the audience with an update on skinning in barley (where the grain loses some or its entire outer husk) from research by SRUC, Scotland's Rural College.
Ciaran outlined the factors found to contribute to skinning which included variety, nitrogen, harvesting and environmental factors.
'There is no easy solution to the problem. Early drilling, avoiding excessive nitrogen and ensuring the correct combine settings, especially where skinning susceptible varieties are grown,'
Liz Glynn of Teagasc delivered an in-depth review of fungicide trials and the best strategies to implement in 2017.
She told the farmers that: 'Trials are consistently showing that a lower rate of a combined fungicide product will give good disease control and the best return for money," said Liz. "Spending roughly equal amounts on fungicides at each timing has shown to be the best strategy.'
The growing distilling market is driving demand for low protein barley, however the low protein can be difficult to achieve.
At the conference Dr Richie Hackett of Teagasc outlined research in this area. He said: 'There is no guarantee every well managed field will achieve distilling quality. Site selection based on previous low proteins combined with excellent agronomic management and with low nitrogen inputs give the best possibility of producing low protein barleys.'
The importance of getting the foundations of the crop correct was addressed by Teagasc advisor Ciaran Hickey who said that areas such as a good seed bed, base fertiliser and a targeted seed rate for the conditions are of critical importance to achieve high yield.
'Growers need to establish a high shoot number to achieve high grain numbers which in turn lead to high yield. Research has established key targets to achieve, to maximise yield and quality.
'Growers should use these established targets, because learning from experience is a cruel teacher, as you have to get the experience first and then the lesson afterwards.'