Western Australian field trials in recent seasons indicate many barley varieties can be higher yielding and more profitable than both wheat and oats at sowing times from mid-April to late May.
Trials conducted from 2015 to 2017 by the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), with Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment, compared wheat, barley and oats for a range of sowing times.
Results from the trial sites in the State’s central, southern and south eastern regions were presented by DPIRD researchers Raj Malik and Jeremy Curry at the GRDC Grains Research Update, Perth, earlier in 2018.
Dr Malik said early sowing in April was becoming the ‘norm’ in WA and wheat was often a preferred cereal choice by growers when sowing early. But the trials showed barley and oats could also be good options.
“For April sowing dates across the trial sites from 2015-2017, barley yielded 0.4 to 2.6 tonnes per hectare higher than wheat and 0.2 to 1.1t/ha higher than oats,” he said.
“The trials found average barley yields were typically similar for April and early May sowing dates, except at frost-affected sites – where the April-sown barley yielded less than barley sown in May.
“In 2016, at the frost-affected sites at Northam and Katanning, oats out-yielded barley by 0.5t/ha for the mid-April sowing date.”
Dr Malik said analysis of 2017 data found a mid-April sowing date produced barley returns of up to $253/ha and $375/ha higher than for wheat and oats, respectively, and barley was more profitable at all sowing times from mid-April to late May.
“Variety choice for April sowing was not as important for barley as it was for wheat, with no significant yield differences recorded between the barley varieties at half of the trial sites,” he said.
At the two frost-affected sites, the winter barley Urambie tended to yield higher than the other varieties from an April sowing. But it was lower yielding at two sites in 2015, highlighting that it is an option mainly to help reduce the risk of frost damage.
Dr Malik said that in addition to yield, quality risks may influence variety choice for barley.
“The risk of germ end staining (staining at the germ end of the grain) increased as the sowing time moved earlier and varieties at high risk – such as La Trobe and Compass – are less likely to meet malt specification at earlier sowing times,” he said.
“Varieties more resistant to germ end staining, such as Flinders and Granger, may be more suitable choices for earlier sowing dates.”