Franklin barley, outstanding By Bob Freebairn, Agronomist, NSW Agriculture

One of my major projects, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation as part of the Western Crop Improvement Program, is to find high yielding cereal varieties suited to early sowing.

Many cereal growers have tended to waste early sowing opportunities; partly because of few suitable varieties and a fear of too much frost risk; partly because more consideration needs to be given to earlier prepared seedbeds; and partly because a higher standard of rotation is required to minimise disease and weeds. Yet early sowing increases the number of sowing opportunities and generally it results in high yields.

An outstanding find from the program, where sowings have been between April 10 and early May, has been Franklin barley. Averaged over 13 trials, conducted over three years, in typical northern and central slopes districts, Franklin has yielded 23 per cent better than Sunbri and 17 per cent better than Rosella, respectively the established early sown wheats in northern and central NSW.

Franklin has also outperformed the best oat, Echidna, by 11 per cent. Compared to other barley varieties Franklin has averaged slightly lower than Onslow (two per cent) but 13 per cent better than Skiff and 18 per cent better than O'Connor. Onslow is also a slower maturing barley but quicker than Franklin.

Skiff tends to suit early May onwards sowing but appears a bit too quick for April sowing. O'Connor is a typical quick maturing variety and is more suitable for sowing from mid May onwards.

Superior malt variety

Franklin is regarded by the malting industry as a superior malt variety — sometimes worth $50 or so a tonne more than feed varieties. However, regardless of how good a malt variety is, and depending on the district, one can only count on acceptance into malt grade about half of the time. It is difficult to consistently meet protein and grain size standards and avoid weather damage. In our trials Franklin has met malt requirements half of the time.

Franklin is a very strong strawed, relatively short variety with excellent seedling vigour. It has good disease resistance but this may not be sufficient for high rainfall southern areas. While barley can be badly frosted, sowing slow maturing varieties relatively early offers better frost protection than similar maturing wheat varieties.

Franklin is a Plant Variety Rights variety and it is important to only buy and sell seed for propagation purposes legally and in accordance with the Plant Variety Rights Act.

CONTACT: Mr Bob Freebairn 068 422 190