Search IconClose Icon

Winter Malting Barley – March 2023

To All Growers of Winter Malting Barley

Writing this as we move into March seems hardly possible but in the blink of an eye we will soon be in the thick of the growing season and then on to harvest and whatever the harvest 23 growing year throws at us, it will no doubt be interesting! The last twelve months have been yet another roller coaster and no doubt the next twelve months will be equally testing. However, with so much going on it is important to keep a handle on the crop in the ground as well as keep you abreast of the wider market for the crop you are growing, whilst not exhaustive please find below some pertinent points to follow around winter malting barley.

Soil N

We have recently had some Soil Mineral Nitrogen samples taken to determine levels of nitrogen reserves in the soil. It is clear that residual levels this year are low, not surprising given crop growth during the mild autumn and then the volume of rain that fell between December & January. The conundrum this year is being able to maintain tiller numbers on what are some very well established and good looking crops and supplying them with enough N to encourage vegetative growth and achieve acceptable yields. The incredibly dry and docile February has seen ‘March yellows’ come a bit early this year as the crops look to grow and search for nutrients. First doses of N have mostly been applied quite rightly and you should aim to get the balances on by 15th – 20th March if possible. The final amount is open to debate and will depend on the usual critical factors, lack of rainfall and nutrient uptake will need to be considered if this dry weather continues through March. With an increase in urea and liquid fertiliser it is important to ensure if products have urease inhibitors or not, this will impact the amount of available N as losses can occur in the conversion to ammonium. Also key to get application timings right with these products and use any available moisture so fertiliser is taken up promptly. As and when soils warm up as we go through March, crops will undoubtedly grow quickly and it will be important to react accordingly.

We suggest you use the following as a guide but rainfall levels and forecasted amounts are worth bearing in mind as we go through March.

Maris Otter – max 125kg/ha

Craft/Flagon/Electrum – max 140kg/ha

SY Vessel – max 120kg/ha

Please also make sure crops receive the right levels of sulphur and we also recommend liberal use of trace elements throughout the growing season, especially manganese, copper etc.

Disease Control

Most crops are thick and look very promising, with such high levels of vegetation disease control will be paramount. The dry, cold weather will serve to keep crops clean but when they start growing and temperatures increase we could see high disease pressure.

Please ensure any products you use are approved by the BBPA and Campden BRI, these have been updated in their technical circular No 483 16th Feb 2023 you can find the approved list here:


You will also need to start planning your PGR strategy, a lot will depend upon the weather in the next 6-8 weeks but our advice remains consistent in that you need to proceed with utmost caution when looking at PGR use on Maris Otter. As we have stated many times before we have seen a lot of damage caused by the use of Moddus & Terpal on winter malting barley especially Maris Otter. Whilst it is easy to say don’t use them, we are more than aware that some very lush crops might need some managing. It is worth remembering that way back when Otter was on the NIAB list its standing scores were not too bad, yield expectations are lower and therefore it is at less risk of lodging anyhow as its canopy weight is less.

Our advice is:

Reduce amount of products in tank mixes.

Avoid Terpal & Moddus unless absolutely necessary.

Early use of chlormequat is advised (GS31).

The Markets

You may have seen this week’s announcements from the BBPA that we could see a further rise in the number of pubs having to close, estimates state that this would mean in excess of 250 million less pints of beer being consumed. Whilst clearly not great for the industry it is worth noting that drinking habits since the pandemic have changed with the ‘off trade’ expanding to the detriment of the ‘on trade’. Bottled and canned beer in supermarkets trades at a considerable discount to the same beer sold in pubs and therefore as our budgets are squeezed it is inevitable that pubs will bare the brunt of the squeeze. Whilst social interaction is important and pubs are a vital part of our heritage and infrastructure it is clear they will continue to suffer.  With huge cost increases, staffing issues and lack of footfall many pubs are only opening a few nights a week. This does not bode well for craft beer but one trend we have seen is that people will drink less but better beer and these better beers do often contain increased amounts of malt as well malts like Maris Otter. Anecdotal feedback from some small and regional brewers also suggests that some of these brands are coping very well with the downtrend in consumption and are proving to be increasingly resilient.

Malt exports are also holding up very well, the strength of the dollar is helping with the demand into the states but also encouraging to see that parts of the Asian market are seeing increasing demand for craft beer as people trade up to more and better western styles of beer. This is also where the uniqueness of Otter comes into play, not only with its incredible longevity and history but also its provenance and unique flavour profile.

So like a lot of things at present it is easy to talk ourselves into the doom and gloom of recession and cost of living crisis but we have been here before and we are very confident that demand for Maris Otter malt and high quality beer around the globe will endure, to that end we are looking at contracts for Crop 2024 and would welcome a dialogue with you on that.

Good luck with the upcoming growing season, if you have any questions around your winter malting barley crop or would like to query some of the points raised, please do not hesitate to contact your usual Robin Appel ltd contact or e-mail