Barley options on the rise

Photo of man kneeling

DAFWA senior research officer Blakely Paynter measures the influence of seeding date on flowering duration at a phenology trial at Northam in 2014.


The barley industry in Western Australia is a highly valuable sector: it contributes about $600 million to the state economy.

The industry’s importance is also reflected in the increasing number of new varieties on offer and this, says Department of Agriculture and Food, WA (DAFWA) senior research officer Blakely Paynter, is causing some uncertainty for growers in deciding which variety to grow.

The DAFWA–GRDC Barley Variety Sowing Guide for Western Australia 2015 and the latest findings from the state’s barley agronomy trials should make these decisions easier.

The guide includes agronomic information about each variety, with a particular focus on new and emerging options. It contains yield data, disease ratings, herbicide-tolerance ratings, agronomic performance and market feedback for WA’s segregated malting and food – and selected feed – varieties.

The disease-resistance ratings have been expanded to include ratings at both the seedling and adult stage. There is also a quick reference guide for each variety – including Compass, Flinders and La Trobe

Mr Paynter says the malting barley supply chain in WA is in a transition phase from more established varieties (Baudin, Buloke, Gairdner and Vlamingh), to a range of malting varieties released in recent years (Bass, Commander, Granger and Scope) – and potential newcomers (Compass, Flinders and La Trobe).

He recommends growers thoroughly research the production and market potential for each variety before making a decision about sowing – weighing up demand with agronomic value.

Any newly accredited malting varieties sown this year should be intended for delivery as feed barley – as segregation, pricing and market demand signals remain unclear for the first two to three years.

Mr Paynter says about 80 to 90 per cent of annual barley plantings in WA are malting varieties, but the exact composition of what will become the established varieties in coming years is still uncertain.

The DAFWA–GRDC barley agronomy project is evaluating the performance of new barley varieties in response to date of seeding, nitrogen (N) rates, N timing, seeding rate and competitiveness against weeds. This project has research nodes operating at Northam, Katanning and Esperance.

“The aim is to provide information that will help growers with decision-making about whether to grow a malting barley variety to chase a potentially higher price, or a food/feed barley variety that consistently produces high yields and suffers less from disease or weeds,” Mr Paynter says.

One trial series conducted in 2014 (and likely to continue in 2015) compared the performance of barley and wheat in response to increasing N application. This was a partnership between the DAFWA–GRDC barley and wheat agronomy projects.

The 10 N trials set up by DAFWA, at sites from Binnu to Pingrup, compared the agronomic performance of six barley (malt and feed) and six wheat (APW and AH) varieties. Newer barley and wheat varieties such as La Trobe, Compass, Cobra and Trojan were included.

Results from this series will also feed into the GRDC Making Better Fertiliser Decisions for Cropping Systems in Australia database and improve information about newer varieties.

Harvest data from these trials will be available at the Agribusiness Crop Updates, to be held at Crown Perth on 24 and 25 February, and should help growers optimise their 2015 barley crop management.

More information:

Blakely Paynter,
08 9690 2115,

The Barley Variety Sowing Guide for Western Australia 2015 is available at:

To register for the 2015 Agribusiness Crop Updates on 24 and 25 February, go to:


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