GROWERS in South Australia’s high-rainfall regions could soon be reaping more barley per hectare thanks to a South Australian Grain Industry Trust project currently underway.
The one-year project, led by South Australian Research and Development Institute research scientist Kenton Porker, is conducting field trials at Tarlee and Millicent to assess how growers could capitalise on barley yield potential through early-sown winter European varieties.
While barley is generally considered to be more adaptive and produce higher yields than wheat, current Australian spring barley benchmarks within medium to high-rainfall regions do not reflect this – particularly with the trend towards earlier sowing.
Problems such as lodging, poor harvest index and frost can limit the ability of spring barley to produce high yields.
Recently-released winter barley RGT Planet has shown that European varieties can outperform spring cultivars in high-rainfall areas, even when flowering at a similar time.
“We’re looking at some diverse genetic material to determine how we could be lifting yield in these high-rainfall zones, as we’ve seen happen with wheat,” Mr Porker said.
“We’ve sown winter varieties which need a vernalisation requirement and are quite slower developing and we have some slow-developing spring cultivars to really see how they perform against RGT Planet when we sow them early in a high-rainfall environment.”
Mr Porker said the trial was focused on maximising yield potential by matching variety phenology to sowing time and environment to ensure flowering occurs at the correct time to minimise exposure to frost, heat and moisture stress.
Treatments have included grazing at two timings.
While this season’s low rainfall had created up an environment different to that which was intended at both trial sites, the trials have highlighted the farming system benefits offered by winter varieties.
“Another component to the trial is also looking at the potential of slower developing cultivars for grazing,” Mr Porker said.
“Winter barleys have a lot more biomass available for grazing early in the season, before harvesting for grain yield.”
The project results will be released in early 2019.