Ian Batchelor

Ian Batchelor

Great grain and yield despite dry

There were plenty of reports of poor spring barley yields off dryland last summer but North Canterbury grower Ian Batchelor’s experience bucked the trend.

Forced into growing more spring barley than usual on his farm at Sefton due to the wet 2014 autumn, he sowed 60 ha of Snakebite and 50 ha of Quench during October.

Cropmaster 20 was applied to the seedbed at 200-250 kg/ha delivering 38-47 kgN/ha, topped up with 75-90 kgN/ha as urea at  GS20.

“I like to get all the nitrogen on early as I find you get a lot of secondary tillers if you go later.”

The fungicide programme kicked off with a GS30-31 application of 0.4 L/ha Proline tank mixed with a herbicide.

“Proline’s given us pretty good disease control up to ear emergence. It’s mainly scald and sometimes a bit of net blotch early on that we’re targeting.”

At the second fungicide timing he rang the changes on his better paddocks, investing in Bayer CropScience’s new product Aviator Xpro (bixafen + prothioconazole) in place of tried and trusted Mogul (prothiaconazole + fluoxastrobin).

“We used the Aviator Xpro across about 30 ha and it averaged about nine tonnes/ha. We normally get between seven-and-a-half and ten tonnes of spring barley and last summer was pretty dry so we were very happy with that.”

But the yield off the Aviator Xpro treated paddocks wasn’t the most remarkable difference: it was the cleanliness of the crop through to harvest and the quality of the resulting grain.

“It was the first time I’ve ever seen a crop of barley senesce naturally rather than die off due to disease and it was beautiful grain to harvest,” recalls Batchelor.

“Our truck normally holds 8.3 t but [last summer] it was coming in with 8.7 t in every load. I know that’s not a very scientific measure but it says something about how good the sample was. There were practically no screenings, not even 1%!”

The cultivar the Aviator Xpro went on was Snakebite, a variety he’s grown before and has yielded 10 t/ha in better seasons so it wasn’t a change in variety driving the grain quality.

“I’m pretty sure it was a combination of the season and the new fungicide we used at T2 which kept the crop clean longer and put a lot more weight in the grains.”

The Aviator went on a fraction earlier than the traditional awns-emerging, “paintbrush” timing.

“Most of the tillers weren’t even at awns emerging. Bayer told us to go earlier rather than later and it would have been early December that it went on.”

The crop was kept clean right through to combining on February 10 with no sign of usual late season suspect ramularia, or the ever present scald.

While last summer he reserved Aviator for his best barleys – “there’s more money to be made by pushing the really good paddocks” – this summer it could come in across the board on barley and might find a place in his wheat programme too.

“We couldn’t plant wheat last year because it was so wet in the autumn. The little bit we did get in was drowned out but this year we’re going to chuck everything at it because there’s a good return if you can get yields up into the 10-14 t/ha range. We’ll try some of this new chemistry and see how it goes.”