Drilling mixed barley varieties.....

Simon C

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Essex Coast
Five years ago I mixed up 4 varieties to make a blend, 25% each of JB Diego, Conqueror, Gator and Panorama. Produces a group 4 wheat which nearly always gives a bit of a premium. I have done several variety trials for KWS who wanted to see if their wheats behaved differently in a no-till system. Without fail, my blend out yields all their new varieties and in one trial it had the highest protein as well. I have been saving and re-drilling seed every year and now don't use anything else, it is far better for me than any new varieties that the breeders can produce.

The origional idea was to slow the spread of air born disease through a crop, all 4 have completely different parentage and so should not be succeptable to the same races of disease. The blend still gets diseases, but I honestly believe they are much slower to multiply which allows me to be a bit more relaxed about spraying, a more wait and see approach, rather than preventative. T timings have been abandoned and so this year some wheat has only had one fungicide and a couple of fields have not had any at all yet.

I had assumed the 4 would have interbreed by now and so tried to stop paying royalties, 25% on each at the start. RSPB wouldn't have it and asked for a sample to do a DNA test. Their result came back the the 4 were all still pure and had not interbreed at all, although the conqueror has increased to 35% and Gator dripped to 15. I would like to get my own independent DNA test done as I find this result a little strange, particularly when you consider that if variety mixing became widespread, RSPB would loose a serious amount of income.
 

Two Tone

Member
Mixed Farmer
I have grown Blends very successfully. Sinclair McGill promoted it in the 80’s for both wheat and Barley. The problem is that the breeders didn’t like the idea and of course, nowadays the chemical companies own so many of the breeders too.

I aslo worked with a fascinating chap called Professor Martin Wolfe, who was the last Plant Pathologist working for the old PBI Plant Breeding Institute, before it got de-nationalised.

He did a lot of research into Blends.
The expectation was that if any of the 3 varieties got the susceptible disease they were prone to, the other 2 would make up for it and yield reduction without fungicides would be minimal.
What he actually found was that the other 2 would protect the susceptible variety and in a high disease year, he would see yields of about 10% higher than any of the individual varieties within the blend, having used no fungicides whatsoever!

The problem today might be trying to find somebody who will blend varieties for you. Also that we do have some astonishingly good disease resistant varieties available that might not need any fungicides. However, they tend to lose this ability quite quickly, so IMO Blends might still be a good option.

Once again as @ajd132 puts it, we are being farmed by the chemical companies into spending money we don’t need to or in this case against protecting ourselves against the need to spend money!

Give it a go. You will end up with the same yield in a low disease year and a higher one in a high disease year.
But many won’t notice, simply because somebody (We all know who!) will persuade them to give it just as much fungicide as usual!
 
Last edited:

2wheels

Member
Location
aberdeenshire
we had a 32ac field sown with a dalgety blend in the 80's. can't remember what the varieties were but it was a 3 way mix (w.b.) sown by a contractor and when the guy finished he had 8 / 50kg bags left over. not very happy , the operator said it wouldn't run through the drill. when it grew we discovered dalgety had made a balls up and the different bags had different separate varieties in them.it grew like a chess board with the different kinds in strips. dalgety gave us compensation and the crop was the best w.b. we ever had.:)
 

AF Salers

Member
BASE UK Member
Location
York, UK
Agree with your sentiments @Two Tone .

Just a note that getting a blend isn't difficult, i blend mine in the drill. One tonne hopper, 250kg of each dropped in from 1/2t bags. By the time it has gravity fed into the accord system it has blended, then home save each year in the future. If this isn't possible it could be mixed in a trailer or the corner of a shed etc.
 

Barleycorn

Member
BASE UK Member
Location
Hampshire
I have grown Blends very successfully. Sinclair McGill promoted it in the 80’s for both wheat and Barley. The problem is that the breeders didn’t like the idea and of course, nowadays the chemical companies own so many of the breeders too.

I aslo worked with a fascinating chap called Professor Martin Wolfe, who was the last Plant Pathologist working for the old PBI Plant Breeding Institute, before it got de-nationalised.

He did a lot of research into Blends.
The expectation was that if any of the 3 varieties got the susceptible disease they were prone to, the other 2 would make up for it and yield reduction without fungicides would be minimal.
What he actually found was that the other 2 would protect the susceptible variety and in a high disease year, he would see yields of about 10% higher than any of the individual varieties within the blend, having used no fungicides whatsoever!

The problem today might be trying to find somebody who will blend varieties for you. Also that we do have some astonishingly good disease resistant varieties available that might not need any fungicides. However, they tend to lose this ability quite quickly, so IMO Blends might still be a good option.

Once again as @ajd132 puts it, we are being farmed by the chemical companies into spending money we don’t need to or in this case against protecting ourselves against the need to spend money!

Give it a go. You will end up with the same yield in a low disease year and a higher one in a high disease year.
But many won’t notice, simply because somebody (We all know who!) will persuade them to give it just as much fungicide as usual!
Martin Wolfe was a top man. sadly died recently, will be sorely missed.
 

Simon Chiles

DD Moderator
@Simon C did this with wheat, hoping disease would default to the lowest common denominator of susceptibility, not the highest. Maybe @Simon Chiles too.
I have grown Blends very successfully. Sinclair McGill promoted it in the 80’s for both wheat and Barley. The problem is that the breeders didn’t like the idea and of course, nowadays the chemical companies own so many of the breeders too.

I aslo worked with a fascinating chap called Professor Martin Wolfe, who was the last Plant Pathologist working for the old PBI Plant Breeding Institute, before it got de-nationalised.

He did a lot of research into Blends.
The expectation was that if any of the 3 varieties got the susceptible disease they were prone to, the other 2 would make up for it and yield reduction without fungicides would be minimal.
What he actually found was that the other 2 would protect the susceptible variety and in a high disease year, he would see yields of about 10% higher than any of the individual varieties within the blend, having used no fungicides whatsoever!

The problem today might be trying to find somebody who will blend varieties for you. Also that we do have some astonishingly good disease resistant varieties available that might not need any fungicides. However, they tend to lose this ability quite quickly, so IMO Blends might still be a good option.

Once again as @ajd132 puts it, we are being farmed by the chemical companies into spending money we don’t need to or in this case against protecting ourselves against the need to spend money!

Give it a go. You will end up with the same yield in a low disease year and a higher one in a high disease year.
But many won’t notice, simply because somebody (We all know who!) will persuade them to give it just as much fungicide as usual!
Prof Martin Wolfe used to start his talk on agroforestry by talking about how the East German farmers grew three varieties of barley to cut down on the fungicide use/spend. His graph showed that the area increased exponentially until the Berlin Wall came down. Then the West German farmers bought all the cheap land and because they had the money to spend on the fungicides the idea got abandoned.
I used to grow 4 varieties of wheat in a blend and it would successfully produce high yields with a much reduced fungicide spend. The only reason I stopped doing it was because I’m now concentrating on seed production otherwise I’d still be doing it if I was growing either a group 2 or 4 wheat.
 

ih1455xl

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
northampton
I grow nelson/skyfall/crusoe group 1 blend this will be harvest number 5 now on hss
to date it’s only had a flat roll early on blw spray And splash of terpal and ctl
seeing a monoculture crop looks odd to me now
I did ask at Niab why they didnt do any trials with blends didn’t get much of answer other than I think the seed company’s don’t like it
 

Two Tone

Member
Mixed Farmer
One of the 1st Blends I planted for Martin Wolfe at Wakelyns Farm was Beaver, Haven and Riband. Probably the last famous varieties he helped breed at the old PBI.

At that time we used half rate Baytan as a seed dressing, primarily because it had an effect of root development.
However, he said that by the time Baytan hit the market as a seed dressing, its effect as a fungicide had virtually ended, except for its effect on Loose Smut.
 

Barry

Member
Trade
We, and other seed companies, have tried principally wheat and barley blends, and have up until recently still offered them up in Scotland.

But because in a seed plant you have to certify each individual variety separately and then after that mix them together so that you get an even mix, the whole thing takes a lot more time and hassle to create. And not unsurprisingly people want different mixes of different varieties.

So it doesn't stack up to do it in a seed plant.

There is some good logic to do it at a farm level, either from a disease risk point of view or a standing ability point of view. However, as this year is demonstrating, disease resistances can change very quickly and what may start out as a good mix of varieties could end up not quite such a good choice.
 

N.Yorks.

Member
We, and other seed companies, have tried principally wheat and barley blends, and have up until recently still offered them up in Scotland.

But because in a seed plant you have to certify each individual variety separately and then after that mix them together so that you get an even mix, the whole thing takes a lot more time and hassle to create. And not unsurprisingly people want different mixes of different varieties.

So it doesn't stack up to do it in a seed plant.

There is some good logic to do it at a farm level, either from a disease risk point of view or a standing ability point of view. However, as this year is demonstrating, disease resistances can change very quickly and what may start out as a good mix of varieties could end up not quite such a good choice.
Think that is the point.... a mix of plants will react to different conditions/burdens and as long as the mix has been carefully thought about then the risks are mitigated.

Take your point about time and hassle but I'm thinking if I put the effort in then it'll be repaid many fold.
 

Barry

Member
Trade
I think with barley it is a case of making your own judgement about which varieties to put together. On wheat, there is information about which varieties fall into which yellow rust diversification group. Which is principally based upon their parents (or grandparents et cetera).

Taking that into account you can reduce the chances of yellow rust spreading by not growing certain varieties adjacent to each other. This doesn't equal, perhaps, mixing varieties in the field together. But it is an alternative if you don't fancy having mixed populations.

Whilst we know the parentage of barley varieties we don't have the general overall knowledge that would allow recommendations as to which varieties to not grow close to each other. Then again, we don't have the density of barley crops that we do on wheat-or at least not usually!
 

Fuzzy

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Bedfordshire
If I had a good dresser I would like to grow a mix of w barley and osr
Volunteer barley in osr always has big grains
I am looking at growing Winter Barley and Winter Beans together this autumn, my thinking is to try and use the barley to supress any blackgrass !!
 

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