Syngenta wants cereal growers to invest in the company’s hybrid barley varieties? There’s nothing new in that.

However, I feel that the company’s justification of hybrids on the back of the recent ADAS research needs further clarification.

From what I can see, the ADAS work amounts to not much more than a nitrogen (N) response trial for hybrid varieties.

But hold on a minute – was that work not carried out when Syngenta first brought six-row barley varieties to market some 20 years ago?

And I don’t remember being told about their ability to deliver ‘optimal’ yields from reduced nitrogen application rates back then. Another point worth highlighting is the comparison made of hybrid barleys relative to two-row options, receiving a higher than standard application rate.

So here comes the obvious question: Why would anyone want to use fertiliser above the standard rate of application on any crop? It is an approach that doesn’t make sense, to me at least.

Nowhere in the press statement issued by Syngenta is reference made to the actual varieties – two-row and six-row – used in the ADAS trial. I feel this information should be made available.

More information on hybrid barleys

The trial work also seems to show that the use of hybrid barleys can be used in the fight against blackgrass; it is all to do with the active root system of the cereals in question.

In my opinion, the only way to deal with blackgrass is to keep it out, if the weed is not a problem, or implement a very robust integrated pest management (IPM) programme on land where there is an issue.

Extensive trial work carried out in the UK and Ireland has verified the efficacy of this approach when it comes to dealing with what is probably the most significant grass weed challenge now facing the crops sector.

I note that Syngenta makes little or no reference to the disease-resistance capabilities of hybrid barley varieties in its most recent press statement.

In my opinion, it all boils down to a fundamental fact – new barley varieties, or any other cereal varieties, should only be assessed on the back of official trial results, which encompass all relevant traits.    

There are no end of opportunities for this approach to be availed of in both the UK and Ireland.