Western Australian growers, Brent, Glenn and Judy Schilling, are achieving price premiums by growing a Canadian import, Harrington barley, under contract to Japanese-owned malting company, Kirin Australia.
The Schilling family farm is one of four properties in the Westdale district taking part in a commercial evaluation of Harrington under Western Australian growing conditions. The evaluation is being carried out by Kirin Australia and the WA Department of Agriculture.
Under the commercial evaluation, 12 WA farmers are being paid an additional $5/t to produce Harrington barley for Kirin. Kirin will then evaluate the quality of the malt produced under a range of malting conditions. Harrington is a two-row malting barley from Canada with a strong reputation in international markets for its superior malting characteristics.
WA growers and researchers are now looking closely at Harrington to test whether the Canadian-bred variety can provide a marketable alternative to Stirling and Franklin.
The Schillings became involved in the Harrington trial as a result of their four-year association with Kirin which started from a contract to deliver Franklin barley in 1991. According to Mrs Schilling, the family decided to plant Franklin due to its disease resistance, ease of harvesting, better head retention and higher-yielding potential than Stirling.
The benefits of the switch are clear. In 1994, paddocks sown to Franklin averaged 10.2 per cent protein and yielded 3t/ha — 0.4t/ha higher than Stirling.
Compared to Harrington
The major benefit of Harrington over Franklin is its earlier maturity (14 days earlier flowering) and slightly larger grain size. This means Harrington could prove more suitable to growers who claim Franklin is difficult to grow due to its late maturity and small grain size.
However, the Schillings say that in spite of its small grain size, they have continuously delivered Franklin to the malting pool.
The Schillings' farm ofl,170 hectares is 100 km south-east of Perth, where the average annual rainfall is 600 mm. The high rainfall and deep gravelly loam soil provide an ideal growing environment for barley, but the Schilling's success is more about good management than luck.
They believe a whole-farm plan is vital to the long-term sustainability of the farm and has allowed the family to plan cropping and grazing activities based on soil type and drainage. The poorly drained soil at the southern end of the farm is grazed by 4,500 merino sheep, while the better-drained soil is cropped continuously in a lupin-cereal rotation.
According to WA Department of Agriculture barley agronomist, Blakely Paynter, whose work is supported by growers though the GRDC, Harrington and Franklin have a longer growing season than Stirling and sowing is recommended in early May.
On the ground, the farmer may vary this scenario. The Schillings' 1995 crop was planted in the third week of May due to a later seasonal break. They seeded both Franklin and Stirling at 90 kg/ha through a John Deere 700 series combine. Harrington was seeded at 80 kg/ha to enable the seed to cover the five-hectare trial site. The Schillings believe this sowing rate will produce better yields because barley does not tiller as well in their area as it does in the lower rainfall areas further east.
Barley planted on lupin stubble was direct drilled and fertilised at seeding with 150 kg/ha of Agras 1 (17 per cent nitrogen, 7.6 per cent phosphorous and 17 per cent sulfur). Crops planted on cereal stubble were scarified and sprayed with 1.5 L/ha of sprayseed before seeding. Agras 1 was then applied at 190 kg/ha at sowing.
Fertiliser was banded 1-2 cm below the seed as Glenn Schilling believes this method produces better yield results than placing the fertiliser with the seed.
Weeds and monitoring
The family uses very little spray for weeds after crop establishment. Judy Schilling said weeds were not a major problem at the farm as the land was cleared for cropping only 32 years ago and many unwanted plants had not been brought onto the farm.
Barley crops are checked every week for growth, pests and diseases. Franklin's natural resistance to scald and powdery mildew means leaf diseases are not a problem. But Harrington will need close monitoring as it is just as susceptible to scald and powdery mildew as Stirling.
The barley is usually harvested from mid-November to mid-December and Harrington will be given top priority this year due to its susceptibility to preharvest sprouting. While Harrington is well suited to high rainfall areas, it has no dormancy period to guard against pre-harvest sprouting due to rainfall.
However, a lack of dormancy is an advantage for maltsters. Little or no dormancy means maltsters can use the grain after harvest without having to store it for up to three months as is the case with Stirling. Franklin has a onemonth dormancy period and is not troubled by pre-harvest sprouting.
Despite the added risks, the Schillings are hopeful Harrington will provide a valuable marketing alternative to Franklin and Stirling — provided it passes Kirin Australia's commercial malting tests in January 1996.
"Harrington has a seven day longer ear initiation period, so given normal finishing rains we would expect Harrington to yield better than Stirling as more grains are produced per ear," Brent Schilling said. "Providing the evaluation by Kirin is favourable we will increase our planting of Harrington in 1996," he said.