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Winter Malting Barley – March 2022

All Growers of Winter Malting Barley

Having contended with Brexit, a pandemic and some extreme weather over the last few years you would have thought we might get a reprieve and be able to get a post Covid recovery well underway. Little chance of that with the tragic news from the Ukraine; it obviously has a huge impact on global grain supplies, with steady increases in values over the last week or so as the tensions built and culminating in a near £30/t net rise on LIFFE wheat. If the picture for new crop was uncertain prior to these historic events, it is now completely impossible to predict. The restrictions on flows of gas and ammonium nitrate can only serve to fuel fertiliser prices and therefore lower applications which could reduce yields, sanctions and the risk to large vessel movements are also key factors. As the northern hemisphere emerges from the winter all eyes will be on the weather between now and the next global harvest starting in Spain in June. It is worth noting that both Spain and Portugal are well behind on winter rainfall levels and with little rain in forward forecasts this is the first major weather issue to watch going into a critical growing season for global supplies.

Winter crops look incredibly well in the UK and will need some careful management as always to try and achieve maximum results, the key issues to address are as follows:


We have employed a new, more accurate soil nitrogen testing system this year. Given that we all realise that this is not an exact science it is important that we can try and gauge what is available to the crop, especially as you build up organic matter levels in your soils and rely less on artificials.

With prices where they are, any opportunity to reduce applications is very welcome. Of course, a balance needs to be struck to achieve good yields and a malting spec. One of the issues we are seeing and seems to be widespread is the large residual levels of nitrogen in the soil profile. Lower than average yields in 2021, a dry winter and mild conditions with high soil temperatures have combined to produce the highest residual levels of soil N witnessed for many seasons. This is understandable given the conditions and is something to be very aware of when looking to apply your second dose of N or your total fertiliser plan. Although plant numbers are high following very good establishment, there is definitely scope to tailor your programme by applying up to 30-50kg/ha less from what you normally do, with big premiums and high values this presents a good opportunity to save on fertiliser which might prove prudent going into 2023.

It also vital that all crops receive ample levels of sulphur as well as trace elements, copper and manganese.

We suggest that all nitrogen is applied by the third week of March if possible and if conditions allow.

If you are unsure on this please do give us a call to discuss.


With such forward crops it will pay to talk to your agronomist about how best to manipulate plants to ensure tiller numbers and standing ability. Maris Otter needs extra special attention and does not respond well to modern PGR’s like Moddus and Terpal. Please speak to your agronomist to ensure you have a suitable approach to PGR’s.


All over the place as you can imagine in the current circumstances and likely to remain that way whilst the Ukrainian conflict rages on, supply of grain from the Black Sea region and huge disruption to major ports let alone extreme weather during the next few months, all paint a fairly bullish but uncertain picture – the two stand out messages on barley however are as follows:

Very low global stocks and increasing demand for beer and whisky around the world.

As you can imagine any disruption to supply is going to have a major impact on markets that are already on a knife edge.

The story for growers of winter malting barley is one of increasing demand as consumers seek out premium brands.

Craft beer consumption is on the rise in many countries – the two plus points here are that Craft beer uses more malt per batch of beer as well as the fact that many people post Covid have discovered added value craft beers and sales are in double digit growth in many countries. Provenance, taste and sustainability are all key factors in producing a craft beer which will be successful against the mega brands.

Harvest 2023

We have an array of contracts available for winter malting barley for harvest 2023. With fertiliser costs where they are and premiums high it is well looking at malting barley against winter feed barley for harvest 2023. Please do give us a call to discuss.

The next few months are no doubt going to be extremely challenging times for all of us as global events unfold and have profound effects on global supplies of raw materials. There appears nothing we cannot cope with as an industry and we look forward to talking to you as the growing season gains momentum.

In the meantime if you have any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch with your usual RA Ltd contact.