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Direct-drilling one of the fastest growing hybrids available after spring rather than winter barley has made all the difference in coping with a very dry autumn and serious flea beetle challenge at Spinney Farm, Market Harborough.

In marked contrast to the decidedly mediocre 3.62t/ha, brothers Tim and Fred Gowling brought in from most of the farm’s 40 ha of rape sown after winter barley, the 13 ha of DK Expedient they put in after spring barley delivered a very pleasing 4.58t/ha.

“If anything, this field was the worst affected by flea beetle last autumn,” Tim explained. “It was very worrying. But while the other crops stood still in the very dry September, it just kept growing.

“We’ve put all our rape in with berseem clover for several years now because it helps establishment – especially in high traffic areas. It also seems to help reduce problems with flea beetle larvae.  And, as usual, everything went in with our Weaving GD drill.

“Having had more years without tillage than the rest – five to date – the ground was definitely better structured to conserve crucial moisture,” he said.  “However, the real difference was the much longer soil cover the spring barley gave us in the bone-dry summer.

“The ground was really nice when we were combining. We drilled the rape and clover just four days later, after baling the straw for our livestock. Even in this time, though, it baked hard and we thought we’d left it too late. But the crop told us otherwise. It never looked back, developed a nice even canopy and delivered well on its promise. What more you can ask with so many crops suffering so badly this season.”

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