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Diary of a Les Henry barley crop

This 82 bu/ac malt barley crop near Dundurn, Sask., made malt. Hurrah!

There was not much doubt about the performance of fall-applied anhydrous. This photo was taken on June 22.

This is the story of a barley crop on my farm near Dundurn this summer.

August 30-31, 2015:

Combined a 40 bushel/acre canola crop.

September 20, 2015

Applied 1 litre/acre Glyphosate plus 2,4-D ester to get volunteer canola.

September 24, 2015

Soil samples taken: Depths zero to six inches; six to 16 inches. Sixteen inches is just practical — that is the actual sample depth of an 18” Backsaver probe tube. I’ll talk about soil tests in a future column.

November 7, 2015

Applied anhydrous ammonia at 50 pounds nitrogen/acre at three to four inch depth into perfect conditions. No “poofing” and no NH3 smell in the air.

The 50 lb N rate was specifically because malt barley was to be the crop and too much N can raise protein — bad news for malt quality.

The anhydrous was not applied to newly broken land. That is my version of precision ag.

For wheat I would have used 80 to 100 lbs N/acre.

I was sick of fusarium head blight in wheat and decided that my long-time rotation of wheat, peas, wheat, canola was not sustainable as it was too much wheat. All cereals can suffer from FHB but barley less because of its flowering habits and shorter time to mature.

November 8, 2015 

This was a warm sunny day so harrowed the field with ordinary time harrows at about six m.p.h. The dry conditions and speed left a smooth surface with most of the canola stubble broken over. The soil was already full of water so the object was to not retain snow. Exactly the opposite of what we would do in earlier drier times.

November to March 2015/16 

Thirty-one inches of snow as I measured it in Saskatoon. Snow is tough to measure, but at least that gives a general idea.

May 6, 2016

Warm weather had flushed volunteer canola plus a few weeds so did a burnoff spray of 0.6 l/ac glyphosate plus 2,4-D ester.

May 8, 2016

My good neighbour Curtis Block seeded two bu/ac of Metcalfe barley using his newly acquired Seedhawk air drill with foot spacing. Emergence and establishment was good. Applied 30 lbs P2O5 /acre plus a dash of N and sulphur with the seed.

May 26 Set up a small strip test with broadcast potash: Rates 0, 100 and 200 lbs 0-0-60/ac. Have never used potassium but barley is most likely to respond to K. Saw no visible difference but did not do yield tests. There was some lodging and K made no difference in that aspect either.

June 2, 2016 

Herbicide applied. Axial Xtreme plus MCPA 600 ester at label rates. Main concern was sow thistle etc. and volunteer canola. Only one small patch of serious wild oats. But when we think wild oat herbicide is not required we always find there are more there than we see when they are small.

June 4, 2016 

Earthworms everywhere. Even on hilltops that used to be bare but now grow well with movement of excess topsoil from lows to highs and a broadcast application of high phosphorus rate several years ago.

June 22, 2016 

By circumstance we had a check strip for N. The snow fence to protect the yard was up before anhydrous so this check strip was left. Not much doubt about performance of fall-applied anhydrous!

By June 27 the crop was heading out and looked great
By June 27 the crop was heading out and looked great photo: Les Henry

July 27, 2016

By July 27 the N response still very visible. Some lodging occurred in “rich” soil areas.

The effect of the fall-applied anhydrous was still visible when I took this photo on July 27.
The effect of the fall-applied anhydrous was still visible when I took this photo on July 27. photo: Les Henry

June 30, 2016

Crop headed and label rate of Prosaro fungicide applied. There was very little disease evident but the heavy stand and forecast for humid weather tipped the decision.

Have no idea if it paid ($27/acre with application). I can live with doing it and not knowing if it paid, but would have a tough time if I did not do it and disease, particularly FHB, prevented a malt grade.

August 12, 2016

Crop swathed — waiting to straight cut looked too slow. Late July and early August rains (two inches total) were a concern as crop was approaching maturity. But the 0.5” rain on August 17, with barley in swath, was most unwelcome!

On August 12 the barley was waiting in the swath.
On August 12 the barley was waiting in the swath. photo: Les Henry

August 21, 2016 

We combined the barley crop. By bin measure estimated 80 bu/ac. With a few good August days barley dries fast in the swath.

No pictures of combining. I was running one of the combines — a big thrill for an old man. Moisture was in the 14s. Dry for malt is 13.5, but not much got combined at 13.5 this year.

September 26, 2016 

The barley went malt. A nice surprise. The final net sold bushels were 82.6 bus/acre. Usually bin measure is a bit generous but not this time.

A very good year, but a lot of luck as well. The sample was stained from rain but no chitting, protein in low 12s, 95 per cent plump, germination good and vomi just OK. Maybe the fungicide paid after all.

About the author


Les Henry

J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for “Grainews” readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres., Saskatoon, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.



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