Many growers have heard the discussions of growing winter barley. Small plot data is available from Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Stations (Western, Wooster, Northwest), but little field-scale data has been published. While growing a newly re-introduced crop could be a consideration on your farm, it may not be for everyone.
Throughout the 2018 growing season, we had the opportunity to work with eight growers across nine field-scale, test sites for growing winter malting barley in Northwest Ohio. Growers were from Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Henry, and Paulding Counties. Each planted small fields of barley that averaged 23 acres in size (range 7 to 63 acres). The variety Puffin was planted on all sites, and two of the sites included the variety Scala in the discussion. These two varieties are both over wintering, two-row malt quality barleys. These growers agreed to share their yield and quality results while participating in simple field-scale research project with these objectives:
1) Determine the field-scale, simple averages for yield (grain & straw), harvest date and quality characteristics for barley grown in Northwest Ohio.
2) Compare the yield and plant/harvest dates for the same variety soybean as a i) first crop system, ii) double crop after barley system and iii) double crop after wheat system.
Based on discussions with Extension state specialists and other regional agronomists, the growing conditions in 2018 were regarded as average or slightly above average for growing winter malting barley. The average dry grain yield (adjusted to 13.5% moisture) across the nine Northwest Ohio sites was 86.5 bushels per acre with a range of 57.9 to 105.6 bushels per acre for Puffin. The average delivered moisture was 13.4% (range of 12.9 to 14.7%). The average harvest date for barley on these sites was June 26 (range of June 25 to June 29).
Two of the cooperators also had Scala two-row barley planted in adjacent fields. The average dry grain yield for Scala was 90.5 bushels per acre (range of 86 to 95 bushels per acre). For the purposes of clear discussion and analysis, the remainder of the data was taken on Puffin barley sites only.
Additionally, at six of the nine sites, the cooperators baled the barley straw. A representative sample was weighed at each site, and the calculated average yield of the straw was 1.01 ton per acre (range of 0.64 to 1.36 ton per acre). As a management note, all cooperators felt strongly that in 2018 removal of the straw made for more effective double crop soybean planting.
Samples of barley from each site were graded on protein, test weight, plumpness, germination, deoxynivalenal (a.k.a. vomitoxin or DON) and other quality metrics.
Seven out of nine sites met malt quality. Of the two sites that did not produce malt quality barley, one site had high DON (1.2 ppm) and another site had low plumpness (58.7%) and high thin (6.7%) results. All sites produced barley in the acceptable protein levels for malting (9.5-12.5%).
Wheat yield comparison
Four cooperators (subset of the original nine sites) in the study had adjacent fields of soft red winter wheat within a half mile of the barley test site. The comparison of barley and wheat yields at these four sites is worth reviewing, as there was no statistical yield difference. In 2018 at these sites, barley harvest occurred six days earlier on average than wheat harvest.
Additionally, three of these cooperators harvested wheat straw. At these three sites, the barley straw yielded 1.01 ton per acre and the wheat straw yielded 1.28 ton per acre. There was not a statistical difference in straw yield (LSD .27 ton per acre at p value < 0.05).
Soybean planting dates
One of the notable considerations for planting barley — especially for Northern Ohio —is the possibly of planting double crop soybeans 6-10 days earlier than one would normally plant after wheat. Seven cooperators participated in this portion of the research by planting the same brand and variety (avg. 3.1 maturity) of soybean as a first crop (adjacent or same field) and double crop after barley. Four cooperators also planted the same soybean after wheat. In 2018, for these sites, double crop soybeans were planted six days earlier on average behind barley than behind wheat.
In summary, much is yet to be learned on barley production in Northwest Ohio. While this article contains just one year of data from nine field-scale sites, it will start to answer the question of whether winter barley is a viable option for farmers in Northwest Ohio. This year showed no statistical difference in grain or straw yield for barley versus wheat. We are also looking at soybean yield and economic data averaged from these sites. The authors wish to thank the cooperators from Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Henry, and Paulding Counties who participated in this research study.
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