Unlocking the Secrets to 180 Bushel Barley

Can we push feed and even malt barley varieties to sky-high yields? Steve Larocque, of Beyond Agronomy, has completed a four-year field trial that says yes, but there’s a catch.

Inspired by what he saw on a 2010 trip to New Zealand, where feed barley averaged 207 to 210 bushels per acre, Larocque started digging into the potential for achieving the same yields in Western Canada.

Turns out, there had been past research conducted not far from his home farm at Three Hills, Alta., that achieved similar yields, and Larocque decided to use that as a leaping off point for an ACIDF-funded research project that ran from 2011 to 2014. (The University of Alberta continued small-plot replicated trials from 2014 to 2016 to validate the findings).

With $110/acre in hand to spend on extra inputs, Larocque focused on four things: plant density, working backwards from the goal of heads/kernels per square foot; nitrogen response from a split application; the use of (as yet unregistered) plant growth regulators; and, early and late fungicide applications.

The research found some significant differences, such as just how early barley needs nitrogen to set high yields, how important lodging avoidance is, and, that, in reality, aiming for 180 bushels an acre isn’t profitable, but spending an extra $25/acre can be.

Hear Larocque run through all the numbers and the explanation below, including on how important variety selection is for lodging resistance and fungicide ROI.

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