January 22, 2016
Early Spring Barley Nutrition Makes all the Difference
The best early nutrition can make all the difference to spring malting barley performance, reveal two years of research centre and farm trials throughout Scotland and northern England.
Run across Agrii’s network of 10 arable technology centres and ifarms from Aberdeenshire, Angus and Perthshire through the Borders and down to North and East Yorkshire, the trials have underlined the particular value of early phosphate, sulphur and key micro-nutrients alongside nitrogen.
Including enhanced availability phosphate with a standard N dressing in the seedbed, for instance, increased mid-March sown Propino root and shoot growth markedly to deliver an extra 0.75 t/ha of grain at Kintore near Aberdeen.
At Laurencekirk between Stonehaven and Arbroath, SO3 in the seedbed raised yields by nearly 0.25 t/ha. Similar yield increases were secured from either manganese seed treatment or manganese-coated seedbed fertiliser in East Yorkshire.
Zinc-coated seedbed fertiliser gave a 0.42 t/ha yield boost to Concerto at Bankfoot near Perth. And the same variety profited from copper-coated seedbed fertiliser at Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire to the tune of 0.23 t/ha.
“These and other results from our trials network underline the extent to which spring barley can profit from the best attention to balanced early nutrition,” stressed Agrii northern R&D manager, Jim Carswell. “The right applications at the right time can be highly cost-effective.
“A decent amount of seedbed nitrogen has long been standard practice to get spring barley off to the rapid start it needs for the best rooting, leaf growth and tiller production in its very short growing season. Our work shows around half the total N application should be in the seedbed with most of the rest applied by GS13 for the greatest value. It also suggests a useful performance – not to mention cost – advantage for Origin Enhanced Nitrogen (protected urea) over ammonium nitrate in the programme.
“At the same time, given the role of phosphorus in root development in particular, most Scottish crops are now combine-drilled with phosphate as well as nitrogen. I believe seedbed P will be every bit as valuable for most English growers and – just like seedbed N – in the absence of a combine drill it should be incorporated ahead of drilling rather than surface-applied after planting. That way the fertiliser is as accessible to the developing roots as it can be.
“As every little really helps with early spring barley nutrition, I’d also recommend having the seedbed P coated with the specialist enhancer, Avail to combat phosphate lock-up,” he added. “This gave noticeable improvements over ordinary phosphate in tissue phosphorus levels and root and shoot development at GS30 in our Kintore trials for an extra 0.13 t/ha at harvest.”
Alongside phosphate and sulphur, Jim Carswell insists it’s well worth addressing any specific micro-nutrient imbalances in the seedbed. For which he sees reliable soil analyses that include assessments of Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and organic matter as well as pH – to indicate the likely availability of key nutrients in addition to their levels – as essential.
“The substantial responses we’ve seen from seedbed sulphur, manganese, zinc and copper applications have all come from soils our analyses have shown to be marginal or lacking in the nutrients in question or likely to compromise their availability,” he pointed out. “We’ve also recorded interesting differences between early treatment strategies.
“For example, under the slightly low sulphur conditions of Laurencekirk we saw a better response to applications of OSN 30:0:0:17 than to another compound providing the same levels of N and S.
“Where manganese levels were low in East Yorkshire, the response to manganese as a seed treatment or as Wolftrax-treated seedbed fertiliser was very similar, with significantly better results coming when the T(-1) treatments were followed by foliar manganese at GS12 and GS31.
“We recorded good responses to Wolftrax zinc and copper in the seedbed where these trace elements were lacking at Bankfoot and Sutton Bank too,” noted Jim Carswell. “But in these cases there was no additional value from foliar applications of either trace element.
“All-in-all our extensive research clearly demonstrates the value of assessing the soil nutrient status of spring barley ground carefully ahead of planting and addressing any imbalances through seed or seedbed treatment wherever possible to prevent any compromise to crucial early crop growth and development. In my experience, this is especially important as spring conditions so often prove challenging in the first few weeks after drilling when crop potential is being set.”