New winter barley surprises experienced arable grower

Being a successful arable grower takes time, patience, and years building up knowledge. This couldn’t be truer for Roy Bowring, of Fir Tree Farm, Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire, who has been farming for over 65 years.

Mr Bowring, now approaching his eighties, has as much enthusiasm and passion for farming as he did on day one, which would put many new entrants to shame, “I’m crop crazy, I like to focus on varieties and agronomy.”

Speaking with Mr Bowring, it’s clear this is true, and he is a strong believer in trying new varieties. “These days the breeding and crop genetics are so advanced, new varieties have got to be considered. I enjoy seeing how they perform, as you don’t know much about them originally.

“This year I’m growing a new two-row winter barley, Surge, and I didn’t know anything about it when we drilled. I’ve been growing barley for over 60 years, and I’d say Surge is the best we’ve ever seen. We don’t know what it’s going to yield yet, but it looks like a great crop.

“When it established early in the winter it covered all the ground and became very thick. It’s what we call ‘stewing out’ and spreading. It was unbelievable, I’ve never seen anything like it.

“We’re on typical Nottinghamshire sand land, and I can’t believe such a heavy crop has stood such heavy storms, it has very good stiff straw.”

Richard Tookey, Mr Bowring’s Agrovista agronomist, agrees that Surge has been a strong variety this season, “So far, Surge looks excellent. It hasn’t had a lot of inputs, so it’s been very easy to look after. Initially, there was an issue with mildew as a result of extremly mild wet weather in mid-winter, which caused more mildew issues across the board than anyone could have expected.

“We treated the crop with a main T1 fungicide which it responded well to, and overall it’s been an easy and clean variety which has responded to Roy’s sandy land exceptionally well. Roy is not necessarily conventional in his approach, but his results are undeniable.”

Having effective disease resistance is likely to be a key factor for next year’s growing season, as rhynchosporium and rust have both been issues this year. Richard Torr, Wynnstay Seed Manager, explains, “It’s important to grow a mixture of barley varieties to provide different coverage in terms of genetics and disease resistance, as it can be difficult to predict what the season will throw at growers.

“We do see Surge as being an extremely strong contender this year, as it offers the most complete package.

“It’s great to hear of a farmer who is willing to experiment with exciting new varieties, and is seeing positive results.”

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