Scottish cereal farmers call for spring barley competition

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Scottish cereal growers are working with ADAS on adding a new spring barley category to the national yield competition– the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN).

At the inaugural meeting of the Scottish YEN Growers Group – funded and facilitated by AHDB – the members discussed how a new spring barley category, which focused on grain quality as well as yield, would give them a better understanding of the crop, and get more Scottish growers taking on YEN.

Scottish Group Chair, Aberdeenshire farmer, Peter Chapman explains: “We’ve really gotten a lot out of YEN over the past few years, you get such detailed information on the crop you are growing that you are then able to make changes to your management which results in genuine improvements to yield.

“However, I know that up here a category dedicated to spring barley would allow us to make even bigger improvements both in terms of yield and grain quality.”

As well as in depth technical support and free soil and grain testing, farmers taking part in the YEN can also enter the national competition which awards prizes not just for the highest yield but to those farmers getting closest to their own farm’s yield potential.

However currently the competition is dominated by winter wheat and therefore the potential yield model used is not as suitable for barley crops, particularly spring barley. For this reason ADAS is now looking for funding to create an entirely new YEN category for spring barley, which will produce more relevant data, and also have a focus on grain quality, something which is vital for farmers who grow for malting.

Sarah Kendall explains: “Spring barley is a very different crop to winter wheat, for example its growth period is shorter, the harvest index is different and so is the amount of light and water available to the crop.

“That means to really understand the factors that go into a high yielding barley crop we need a different model, and we need to separate spring barley data so that farmers can benchmark their crop with other spring barley crops across the UK and thereby identify where they can improve.”

For AHDB Senior Arable Knowledge Exchange Manager Claire Hodge the drive for a new spring barley category demonstrates just how determined many Scottish growers are to increase their yields through a better understanding of crop development and management.

She says: “We’re looking forward to working with them as its projects like YEN which help AHDB to identify and share best practice and encourage growers to scrutinise everything they do on farm, both of which are crucial in the drive to increase productivity.”

Scottish growers have been taking home prizes at YEN for a number of years and had their best year yet in 2018 when they bagged two golds, one silver and one bronze, while Jamie Leslie (one of the gold winners) also took home the Innovation Award for improving his barley yields on Shetland by 40%.

It’s thanks to this success that the Scottish YEN Growers Group has been formed, consisting of farmers competing in YEN, agronomists supporting the competition, and representatives from AHDB and ADAS.

Registration for YEN 2019 is now open, more information can be found at