By Eric Richer, CCA, Sarah Noggle, and Garth Ruff
Several growers across the state had the opportunity to grow winter malting barley in 2018. We had the opportunity to work with eight of those growers from Northwest Ohio, in particular, to learn more about the viability of growing this newly, re-introduced crop. As a learning cohort of sorts, these growers agreed to share their yield and quality data results while participating in a simple, field-scale research project with these two objectives:
1) Determine the field-scale, simple averages for yield (grain & straw), harvest date and quality characteristics for barley grown in Northwest Ohio.
Simply put: Can we grow barley with high yield and good quality?
2) Compare the yield and plant/harvest dates for the same variety soybean as a i) first crop system, ii) double crop after barley system and iii) double crop after wheat system.
Simply put: What will the double crop soybeans yield in this barley system?
In this article, we would like to focus on the soybean data associated with this study. The data presented below was based on one growing season and should be interpreted as such.
Each barley grower in the cohort was asked to plant a ‘paired-site’ field of first crop soybeans adjacent to their barley field with the goal of comparing yields of double crop soybeans after barley to the of first crop soybeans (check). Eight growers utilizing eleven different variety comparisons (sites) participated in these paired sites. Additionally, four growers utilizing five variety comparisons (sites) had a wheat field adjacent to or nearby these paired sites and planted double crop soybeans after wheat. One could consider the double crop soybeans after wheat a more important ‘check’ than first crop soybeans. It may depend on your perspective or whether you are a wheat grower or not.
Growers were asked to use the same soybean variety (Table 1) in each scenario to eliminate varietal differences. Soybeans maturities ranged from 2.5 to 3.5 and several trait platforms were used (non-GMO, Roundup, Xtend, and Liberty) based on the grower’s preference.
Table 1. Study Location Background - Soybean Fields
Fulton - 1
Fulton - 2
Pioneer 33A81 PR
Fulton - 3
Fulton - 4
Fulton - 5
Fulton - 6
Pioneer 27T91 PR
Henry - 1
Paulding - 1
One of the notable considerations for planting barley—especially for Northern Ohio—is the possibility of planting double crop soybeans 6-10 days earlier than one would normally plant after wheat. In 2018, the average planting date for first crop soybeans was May 22 with an average as planted seeding rate of 175,000 seeds/acre. The average planting date for soybeans after barley was July 1 with an average seeding rate of 187,000 seeds/acre. The soybeans planted after wheat had a July 7 average at an average seeding rate of 197,000 seeds/acre. In this production year across these sites, the double crop soybeans after barley only gained 6 days as compared to those sites that had double crop soybeans after wheat. Additionally, all growers in the cohort felt strongly that removal of the straw made for more effective double crop soybean planting.
All sites were harvested for yield, (Table 2) over nearly two months’ time due to challenging weather. All yields reported were standardized to 13% moisture. First crop soybeans yielded 59.3 bushels per acre with a 14.0% harvest moisture and had an average harvest date of October 17. The soybeans after barley yielded 36.6 bushels per acre with an 18.7% harvest moisture and had an average harvest date of November 17. Finally, the soybeans after wheat yielded 19.5 bushels per acre with a harvest moisture of 17.8% and an average harvest date of November 29.
Table 2. Average soybean data across paired sites.
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1st Crop Soybeans
Soybeans after Barley
Soybeans after Wheat
May 1-June 7
June 26-July 12
Oct 5-Nov 23
Oct 25-Dec 12
Nov 23-Dec 11
Barley Growing Considerations
The decision to raise a new crop like barley should be based on the information gathered by each producer, how that particular crop fits into each operation, having a contract and delivery point in place prior to planting, and the overall profitability of the enterprise. Barley may or may not be for your farm. It does allow a grower to add crop diversity to the rotation while using existing equipment (grain drill, sprayer, combine). However, growing a food grade, identity preserved (IP) crop requires specified quality standards and segregated storage as compared to commodity crops. Additionally, the planting and harvesting logistics for barley may not fit into all operations. The list of advantages and disadvantages is much more extensive but these could be observed as some of the most important.
In summary, much is yet to be learned on barley production in Northwest Ohio. Yield data from this growers’ cohort suggests that double crop soybean yield after barley can be significantly better than soybean yield after wheat. While this article contains just one year of data from eight growers, it will start to answer the question of whether winter barley is a viable option for farmers in Northwest Ohio.