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Maris Otter Bulletin – April 2019

To all Growers of Maris Otter Malting Barley

What a difference a year makes! This time last year we were still in the grip of a cold, wet spell and the damaging legacy of the ‘beast from the east’. Water tables were full and a lot of land remained to be sown with much of it not being drilled until well into May. Looking at the forecast there does not appear to be much in the way of rain coming our way so it looks like May will become a critical month for crops. Many analogies have been made between the summers of 1975 and 1976. However, winter crops look very well and although they have been slowed up by the recent cold, easterly winds and some fairly sharp frosts, they have some serious potential. With all the current uncertainties surrounding us there is some good, positive news to report in the world of craft beer so we will touch on some pertinent issues in this update.

Tank Mixes

With the big differences we are seeing between day time and night time temperatures please be extra careful when spraying your Maris Otter crops especially where tank mixes have been advised. Every year we see damage to Maris Otter due to ‘hot’ mixes especially when applied where frost risk is present or weather conditions that will generally put further stress on the crops are forecast.


Some crops are particularly lush this year and will require careful use of growth regulators. As many of you will be aware that being in its “mid-fifties” Maris Otter is not as good at coping with a ‘hangover’ as some of the younger, more vigorous varieties are. Over the years many growers have weaned themselves off using PGR’s at all on Maris Otter, much to the dismay of agronomists. Certain growth regulators can really hit the crop hard and do serious damage to both yield and quality prospects. Therefore please be very careful with what you decide to use and when, make sure your agronomist is fully aware that Maris Otter is not as robust as its more modern counterparts. It may be worth trying to leave a tramline or two free from PGR’s to see for yourself how robust the variety can be. It did have better standing power than both Pipkin and Halcyon when it was on the National List.


The debacle that is Brexit has obvious ramifications for UK agriculture and we patiently await some sort of clarity on the situation, in order that we can fully engage once more with European export markets. As you will know the majority of Maris Otter malt is used by the craft brewing sector both here and in North America. The really exciting news is that the demand for craft beer is expanding all the time around the world. The growth in Europe has been marked in the last few years with countries like Spain and France really getting a taste for craft beer and English beer styles. So the sector remains really vibrant and of course Maris Otter malt plays a large part in that. Maris Otter is only grown in England and only in traditional malting barley areas so we can hopefully achieve a high success rate. We contract Maris Otter with all of the major UK maltsters so the barley supply chain is currently not affected by any Brexit issues. Currently malt exports are tariff free to third countries but this could change with malt exports to Europe depending on what sort of agreement/transition period is reached. Europe is a fledging market but growing steadily and it is exciting to note that the same can be said for Asian markets as well. Demand for 2020 harvest looks to remain strong and we would therefore welcome the chance to talk to you re your plans for next year’s harvest.


We are currently in the process of switching banks to HSBC from Barclays. This should be a seamless affair but if you need any clarification or have any queries please do get in touch.

Royal Approval

We were recently invited to talk to Prince Charles during a visit to St Austell Brewery about the production and history surrounding Maris Otter and the supply chain that we are involved with in Cornwall. Prince Charles was genuinely interested in the production of Maris Otter and really interested in its history and the role it plays in the production of craft beer.

Sampling Your Maris Otter

Over the last few years we have seen increasing levels of variability within bulks of all grains, particularly so with malting barley and very definitely with Maris Otter.  Nitrogen levels and screenings are the two main issues. We would really like to be able to get a more accurate picture of your barley. A sampler with a spear taking say 6 x 1kg of barley out of a store/bulk containing a few hundred tonnes can potentially leave a large margin of error. We feel we would get a far more accurate picture if you could take samples as the crop comes into store by sampling the trailers on store intake. A subsample put into a series of containers  which ultimately represents each bay or samples kept from different fields (or parts of fields) would allow us (and you ) to obtain a far better level of understanding as to exactly what you have got in store and hopefully avoid any nasty surprises on intake. We are happy to collect samples or we can furnish you with freepost envelopes in order that you can send samples in to us.

We are in no way shirking our responsibility to establish the quality of barley you have to market, but purely trying to find ways where we can work together to establish the quality parameters of the crop you have harvested and maximise your return.

We wish you the best of luck with the growing season this year and will hopefully see many of you over the next few weeks prior to harvest. If in the meantime you have any queries or questions you would like to raise please do get in touch with your regular Robin Appel Ltd contact or e-mail us at

Jonathan Arnold

25th April 2019