IT COULD be called generational change and it's been a long time corning, but malting barley producers in WA are set for a big change if the new provisional malting varieties Hamelin and Baudin live up to their promise.
Big reputations are on the line as these replacements for Stirling and Gairdner enter commercial production. So, how have seed growers found the new varieties perform 'on-farm'?
Baudin - yield and good grain size in the one package
Mark and Heather Adams and Mark's parents. Colin and Edna, together count more years of experience than they care to remember with malting barley on their ' Yaralla' property, 30 km east of Mount Barker. WA. "Stirling had its day but never fulfilled our yield potential," said Mr Adams.
"Franklin" gave us yield, but most of the grain had to be screened before delivery. At least we have not had to do that with Gairdner", but with Baudin we may have yield and good grain size in the one package."
Selected from a Stirling/Franklin cross, Baudin" is a 'Gairdner' replacement' with shorter stature, excellent straw strength and head retention, slightly plumper grain compared to Gairdner and excellent malting quality. In trials, Baudin's grain yields are generally equivalent to those of Gairdner. Some data suggest that Gairdner retains a yield advantage in high-rainfall areas, while Baudin has an advantage at yield levels below 2.5 t/ha.
Two years of growing Baudin have left the Adamses with some strong impressions of the new variety. "It's short," said Mr Adams. "Lodging and head loss cost us 8-10 per cent of our Gairdner last year just because of two or three hot windy days, compared to no losses on the Baudin.
"We are 100 per cent crop and 100 per cent stubble retention. so straw handling is important. Barley may not be as tough as wheat. but the short stature of Baudin means less straw to handle when it comes to seeding," he said.
Mark Adams also has some interesting observations on disease. "With the short height, we get better spray penetration and seem to get better disease control. even though Baudin is just as susceptible as Gairdner."
Figures back this up - in 2002 the Adams' early-sown Gairdner needed three sprays but still carne in at 22 per cent screenings, while Baudin in the same paddock needed only two sprays and had 11 per cent screenings. "Yes, Baudin's naturally plumper grain helped, but I believe that more effective disease control was just as important," Mr Adams concluded.
"It goes by the book" is Ray Harrington's experience of three years of Baudin. Last year Ray and Tim Harrington's malting evaluation crop went 4.9 tlha at 5 per cent screenings compared to 5 tonnes and 12 per cent screenings for the Gairdner control. "It's an unassuming crop. easy to harvest and tends to go better than it looks," according to Mr Harrington.
Based at Cordering. halfway between Darkan and Boyup Brook, Mr Harrington is well known for his innovative machinery and matching farming systems. "We swath our barley at 40 per cent moisture with a desiccant spray applied underneath the swather for ryegrass control, and then pick up and chop the straw through the header," he said. A vote of confidence?
"Eighteen hectares of Baudin last year, 350 ha this year!" was Mr Harrington's reply.
More ambivalent about Hamelin
Bred from a Stirling/Harrington cross. Hamelin is a slightly higher-yielding, improved malting quality replacement for Stirling. It is of similar height with a slight improvement in lodging resistance, produces grain that is generally brighter and has a slightly higher level of screenings (2-4 per cent).
Unfortunately it retains the disease susceptibility of Stirling and has inherited the potential for pre-harvest sprouting from its Canadian parent.
Peter and Tony Boyle of 'Warawong' in the heart of WA's Avon Valley have grown both Hamelin and Baudin. "Hamelin looks okay - so similar to Stirling, it's hard to pick," says Mr Peter Boyle. "But it's Baudin we are looking forward to."
The Boyles moved to Gairdner for its yield (up to 1 t/ha greater) and $5/tonne premium over Stirling, but have had to use their on-farm grader or CBH's Metro Grain Centre cleaning service to take out the screenings in most years. "That's $15/tonne in costs we could pick up straight away it Baudin's plumper grain comes through." said Mr Boyle.
This year Peter Boyle is putting Baudin to the test. "Sowing in June we would normally use Stirling (or Hamelind), but if Baudin is as flexible as people say and the screenings are not too bad, we will go with just the one variety," he said.
Similar thoughts are going through the minds of John and Alison Tuckett at 'Aurora', 45 krn south of Kojonup on the Albany Highway. "We are a mixed fanning operation, 50:50 livestock and crop, and a big mix of soil types, and we can't do everything at the saIne time," said Mr Tuckett.
"We tried Gairdner, but went back to Stirling because we knew that we could sow in the first half of June and always make malting. Gairdner had the yield advantage, but we couldn't always get it into the sowing window - and even if we did, the screenings dropped us out of malting more often than not."
The Tucketts were pleased with their 2002 Baudin crop grown for commercial malting evaluation and have 200 ha of Baudin this year.
And Hamelin? "It could have a future, but we will wait and see," said Mr Tuckett. Hamelin and Baudin have been registered for Plant Breeder's Rights. Both varieties have been released as 'Provisional Malting'. Commercial malting evaluation is continuing in 2003 and, on completion, the varieties will be classified as General Malting or, alternatively, as Feed.
This is likely to occur at the end of 2003 for Baudin and following the 2004 season for Hamelin. A crop improvement royalty will be applied to both varieties.
Program 1 Contact: Mr Mark Adams 08 9854 1051 Mr Ray Harrington 08 9736 3004 Mr Peter Boyle 08 9641 1186 Mr John Tuckett 08 9834 3033