Weather permitting, the first of this year’s winter barley harvest in Northern Ireland will be cut next week.

The combines should start rolling in Co. Down as early as Monday.

“Yields look very promising,” confirmed Fane Valley agronomist, Christian Melly.

“For the most part, weather conditions have been pretty cool and damp during the 2022 growing season.

“As a consequence, ears have had an opportunity to fill out well. This is in total contrast to last year, when the very dry conditions hampered final yields.”

Melly made these comments while attending the open day hosted earlier this week by Alistair Craig, Northern Ireland’s new Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) cereals and oilseeds monitor farmer.

He expects winter barley yields to come in at around 3.5t/ac with many exceed 4t.

Harvest elsewhere

In total contrast, it could be the last week of July, or even the first week of August, before the combines start rolling in the north west Derry area.

The Craig family grow 80ha of feed grade winter barley and an additional 30ha of barley, grown to seed certification standards, at its Carsehall farm, near Limavady.

A herd of 240 pedigree Holstein cows complements the tillage operation.

A proportion of the winter barley acreage has already been harvested as wholecrop.

“We ensiled 200t of forage from the 19ac of crop that were cut,” Alistair Craig explained.

“This bodes well for the barley that we harvest grain in a fortnight or so.”

Northern Ireland Open Day

Approximately 40 farmers from the north west Derry area attended the open day. The threat of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDY) was discussed at length.

According to the host farmer, aphids were not that big of an issue on the farm.

“We grow the 6-row variety Amistar, which is tolerant of BYDV. We aim to sow our winter barley crops as early in the season as possible. Last year, we had all the ground planted out by September 15,” he said.

“After emergence, we walked all the crops. Aphids were evident in some of the field. The decision was taken to go with an insecticide at those locations.”

Christian Melly confirmed that BYDV is less of a threat in coastal areas.

“However, it represents a real yield threat in other parts of the country,” he explained.

The Fane Valley agronomist recommends the use of the T-Sum 170 rule when it comes to determining the likelihood of an aphid attack.

The T-sum is calculated by subtracting 3°C from the average temperature each day and adding the result to the running total.

When the T-sum reaches 170, it is an indicator that aphids could be starting to appear in barley crops.

“At that stage, growers can decide whether or not to apply an aphicide,” Melly concluded.