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Maltsters are adopting a pragmatic approach over nitrogen tolerance

The growing conditions in 2018 have produced barley with high nitrogen levels.
The growing conditions in 2018 have produced barley with high nitrogen levels.

Maltsters are taking a pragmatic approach to nitrogen tolerance in Scottish spring barley this season by accepting samples at up to 1.85 rather than the usual cut-off point of 1.65.

Around 80% of Concerto and 95% of Laureate is coming in at up to 1.85 and some traders are reported to be bulking even higher nitrogen samples in the hope that a shortage will require maltsters to purchase barley that would otherwise have to go for feed.

East of Scotland Farmers general manager Robin Barron said maltsters were making individual decisions on what was acceptable, with many accepting 1.85 and others only taking barley at 1.75.

He added that anything higher was highly speculative.

Meanwhile the final push is on this week to harvest the remaining crops, with commentators suggesting that another four or five days of good weather will see most fields cut.

The 2018 harvest has been marked by a huge variation in yields, varieties and quality.

Average yields are close to two tonnes per acre for Concerto, while Laureate is yielding slightly higher at an average 2.5 tonnes/acre.

Levy body AHDB’s Scottish cereals and oilseeds manager Gavin Dick reported that yields from crops that were stressed by the summer drought have been the biggest disappointment for growers, although crops that were sown in good seed beds have performed well.

He added that while winter barley had set no records, the latest reports indicated that yields had matched the five-year average.

“And it has been coming in very dry because of the weather – some off the combine below 15%, which is exceptional in Scotland, so that’s clearly a bonus for drying costs,” he added.

Straw yields are thought to have been hit even more than grain, but very few growers are chopping their straw this year.

He added: “Any reduction in straw obviously has serious implications for the whole sector.”

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