Planet barley back in orbit

Malt accreditation is icing on the cake for Planet barley

Cropping
Dan Fox with his Planet barley, sown at 30-50mm, from April 30 this year. The Foxes switched to the Planet variety from LaTrobe due to its high yield potential and frost resistance.

Dan Fox with his Planet barley, sown at 30-50mm, from April 30 this year. The Foxes switched to the Planet variety from LaTrobe due to its high yield potential and frost resistance.

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Growers see yield and frost resistance results from Planet.

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Recent malt accreditation is helping drive a renewed interest in Planet barley, a variety that was introduced commercially three years ago.

Dan Fox, a cropper from Marrar, 30 kilometres north of Wagga Wagga said the malt classification gave growers the opportunity to go after a premium price.

"The end use is something you have to consider when choosing barley varieties, some varieties like Fathom and Hindmarsh are feed only now," Mr Fox said.

But for the Foxes, malt accreditation is just the icing on the cake.

It was the variety's upper yield potential that saw them switch from LaTrobe to Planet two years ago, putting in 400 hectares of Planet in last year and 450ha this year.

He said they made the decision after they conducted trials that found it beat LaTrobe barley's yield significantly, even in a year with a tight finish.

While Planet's frost resistance also impressed.

"We were seeing in the lower areas, where we get a lot of cold-air drainage, the Planet seemed to hold up better to frost," Mr Fox said.

Neil Durning of Riverina Independent Agronomy said Planet's weed suppressive nature gave another point to the variety.

"It has a strong ability to out compete weeds including ryegrass, and that makes it very attractive, especially in that barley space," Mr Durning said.

Mr Durning said the variety's yield potential also gave added benefits to irrigators and mixed farmers.

"Last year, I saw Planet barley yield over seven tonnes to the hectare of grain plus 4t/ha of straw after being flood irrigated twice," he said.

"It's competitive nature can also be used to grow some good biomass in a dual purpose system if planted a few weeks earlier than currently advised."

But it's not all good news, Mr Durning said he still advised other varieties for his Western clients with grain quality sometimes compromised in low rainfall seasons.

"In a really tight year it can be prone to really small grains or screenings, there are other barleys such as LaTrobe and Spartacus types which hold their grain size better," Mr Durning said.

However, Swan Hill grower, Ben Merritt said although the grain quality could be suspect he saw his best yields from Planet barley last year.

"It probably got less than 100 millimetres on it and the hay still yielded around 2t/ha," Mr Merritt said.

This season, Mr Fox said good rainfall and unseasonably warm conditions meant it was growing quick, his earlier planted barley already showing three leaves.

Mr Durning says grain prices mean growers have gone in all guns blazing on barley this season.

"Barley has been selling for $300 a tonne and given that it generally yields around 0.7 -1 tonne per hectare higher than wheat in the same paddock, same year, barley is looking more attractive as a whole," Mr Durning said.

Mr Fox said another factor was following a poor season last year, growers were looking at low-risk crops.

"A substantial amount of canola acreage has been substituted for barley, which has traditionally been a fairly safe crop compared to canola and wheat," Mr Fox said.

"We have increased our barley area."

Mr Durning said the turn towards barley proved how much of an impact the market now has.

"You've got to remember in 2016 barley was worth $120 a tonne and nobody was ever going to grow it again," he said.

"Grain price has more influence on profitability than most things we do in the paddock, an average yield of 3 t/ha at $300/t equals $900/ha gross profit, at $120/t we would have to grow 7.5t/ha for the same gross profit and those yields have been impossible to achieve in most growing areas of southern NSW in recent years."

But the question for those who backed barley, is whether $250/tonne will be around after this harvest.

Mr Durning predicted it likely won't if global grain prices fall, but said barley was still a smart bet for mixed farmers.

"The lamb price is going north of $7/kg, dressed and that's encouraged people to fatten stock," he said.

"I've got growers who value-add their barley and put it through trade lambs or their own stock if they can't get a decent price for it."

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