Hybrid barley a weed control tool

Syngenta technical manager for conventional genetics Kathryn Hearn with Syngenta growth awards winner Greg Giblett, Quirindi, NSW, and Syngenta northern EU marketing manager Mark Hall with a crop of hybrid barley at the recent Cereals event in Cambridgeshire, England.BRITISH farmers are increasingly looking at non chemical methods of controlling problem weeds, with uncertainty surrounding future registrations of key herbicides such as glyphosate.
Shanghai night field

With this in mind options such as hybrid barley are becoming more and more popular as higher yielding varieties hit the market.

Syngenta reported strong interest in its new Hyvido Bazooka and Hyvido Belfry lines at last week’s Cereals field day, the premier arable farming event in the United Kingdom.

Hybrid barley, introduced to the UK in 2011, is being used as a tool in running down blackgrass seed numbers.

Blackgrass is the number one crop weed in the UK. It is a vigourous species with the ability to set large numbers of seed.

The winter barley crops are achieving great success in outcompeting blackgrass.

Syngenta technical manager of conventional genetics Kathryn Hearn said the hybrid vigour meant the crops got away strongly early after being planted.

“There is good early canopy closure which makes it difficult for weeds,” she said.

As hybrids, the barley varieties are only suitable for feed purposes, but Ms Hearn said farmers were saying the high yields would compensate for a lack of a malt premium.

Farmers in the UK are reporting high yields with hybrid barley lines.

Hybrid cereals are widely available in the UK, with barley recording better results in weed suppression than wheat in trials.

The two new Syngenta lines will have a strong fit in northern England, due to high levels of resistance to wet weather diseases.

Unusually for Australian growers, used to semi-dwarf varieties, the hybrid barleys are bred to be tall in order to smother blackgrass.

They are also six row varieties, virtually unknown in Australia, with all three spikes on the ear fertile.

The hybrid barleys are generally sown in September, relatively soon after the previous crop is harvested.

While Australian producers are familiar with growing hybrid canola lines, the hybrid cereal sector is far less developed. There have been hybrid wheat lines commercialised but they have failed to attract significant market share, due to the fact yield benefits are relatively modest in comparison to the additional costs.

· Gregor Heard travelled to the United Kingdom as a guest of Syngenta.