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9/7/2013 7:00 AM

To Finalize Barley Planting Plans

Barley planting should begin this month, and now is the time to finalize your preparations.

Extension agronomist Greg Roth points out that barley is one of our smaller crops but it has potential to be more important in our cropping systems.

Barley yields have been increasing recently, and yields of more than 100 bushels per acre are not that uncommon.

Barley fits well in double-cropping systems with corn silage or soybeans, and it makes a good on-farm substitute for corn for dairy and beef feeding.

A popular barley variety for this application in our region has been “Thoroughbred” from Virginia Tech. In our trial last year (which we did not harvest) Thoroughbred had heavy mildew pressure early, and this is becoming more common on this variety.

“Atlantic,” a new release from Virginia Tech, has had similar or better yields than Thoroughbred and has much less powdery mildew.

Interest in hulless barley is increasing in the layer industry as a higher-protein substitute for corn, and markets for this continue to grow.

Barley allows for earlier double-cropping, which helps move this practice north, allowing more folks to double-crop soybeans where it’s risky following wheat.

Direct-cut barley silage is an excellent substitute for corn silage. Yields of barley cut at the soft dough stage can reach 4-5 tons of dry matter per acre and are higher that other small-grain silages harvested at the flag leaf stage.

There is a narrow harvest window, but with a direct-cut setup, harvest can be rapid, with less traffic on the fields and no risk of rain on the windrowed crops.

Nonbearded barley lines are often preferred for this application. Nomini, Valor, Seedway SB151 and Growmark FS 501 are examples of these lines that have been in our tests in the past.

Barley has been challenged with lodging in some environments, but with the introduction of the growth regulator Pallisade this year, this problem can be managed to avoid some of these issues.

Winter barley planting should begin in mid-September in northern counties and can continue until about mid-October in warmer regions.

We were unable to harvest our winter barley trial this year due to winter injury from flooding, but performance results from Delaware http://www.udel.edu/varietytrials/small_grains/ and Maryland http://mdcrops.umd.edu/wheat/2012MDYieldTrialResults.pdf can help provide some insight on barley yield potential.

To Consider Storage, <\n>Testing of Your Own Seed

Although using certified seed is the best way to ensure quality, replanting seed from good-looking grain fields is a regular practice on some farms.

Extension agronomist John Rowehl suggests some factors to consider for getting the best results.

Depending on how well the combine cleaned the seed in the field, the weed content and whether it will be drilled or broadcast, you may want to have it cleaned.

Be careful about weed-seed infested cereals, particularly if the seed came from another farm or from another state. Seed should be dried carefully to 10 to 12 percent moisture content soon after harvesting.

To minimize the effect on germination, do not dry seed at temperatures of more than 90 degrees F, and do not maintain elevated temperatures any longer than is required to dry the seed.

Seeds exposed to air respond to its relative humidity. At 50 percent relative humidity, the moisture content of wheat and rye seeds is about 12 percent; of barley, about 11 percent; and of oats, about 10.5 percent.

The moisture content of small-grain seed exposed to 70 percent relative humidity is nearly 15 percent, which is too high for safe storage.

At 90 percent atmospheric humidity, the seed moisture content of several small grain crops swells to 20 to 23 percent. Viability and vigor are lost rapidly under these conditions

Although it usually is not practical to control the temperature and relative humidity of the space where seed is stored, it should be a place where the temperatures and the humidity are as low as possible.

Since small-grain seed is stored over the hot weather months before use, it has the potential for infestation and damage from insects.

Whether you store it in a bin, a gravity wagon, piled on a concrete floor or in bags, you should make sure the storage area has been cleaned of any old grain that could harbor insect pests.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture offers seed-testing services for farmers who intend to plant home-grown seed and want to know its germination and purity before they plant it.

Farmers also may need to have an analysis done to receive payments for some cover-crop incentive programs. The fee for combined purity and germination tests for barley, wheat, oats or rye is $15.

Cleaning or testing seed does not mean you have a right to sell it to other farmers. Under the Plant Variety Protection Act, varieties can be sold or advertised for seeding only by the holder of the variety certificate or with the holder’s permission.

Farmers can save legally purchased varieties to use for their own planting but cannot sell, trade or transfer it to others for planting purposes.

Some commercial varieties are now patent-protected, which is a different form of protection. No one can replant a patented variety for any reason.

Under the current regulations of the Pennsylvania Seed Act, anyone selling seed in Pennsylvania has to be a licensed seed dealer, farmer-to-farmer sales included.

Quote of the Week

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson

Leon Ressler is district director of Penn State Cooperative Extension for Chester, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.


Given the prolonged winter, have you been able to do any of your spring planting?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Almost

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4/22/2014 | Last Updated: 10:45 PM