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A new hybrid winter feed barley - which mixes high yields with good grain quality - could hold particular appeal for growers on heavier... Hybrid barley could strike chord on heavy land

A new hybrid winter feed barley – which mixes high yields with good grain quality – could hold particular appeal for growers on heavier land, says its breeder.

Launched this autumn, SY Thunderbolt has a UK treated yield of 107% of control varieties and a grain specific weight of 69.6 kg/h. The Syngenta variety is new on the AHDB Recommended List (RL) for 2021/22.

Thunderbolt delivered a specific weight of 69 kg/hl over the last three years, according to AHDB data. This should give growers confidence it will achieve the thresholds demanded by grain buyers, says Syngenta seeds technical manager Paul Roche. 

Consistent yields of 107% across all UK regions could make the early maturing variety a particularly popular option. At 111% of control varieties, it also has the highest yield figure on heavy soils, says Mr Roche.

“An early harvest also helps to spread summer workloads and gives an opportunity for early cashflow. It is also especially useful if following barley with oilseed rape.


“The oilseed rape price is very healthy at the moment, and soil moisture is critical for the crop’s germination,” he adds. “If you can get oilseed rape up and away early while soil moisture is still available it stands a better chance against the first wave of cabbage stem flea beetle.”

Heavy land is typically favoured by blackgrass – making Thunderbolt a good fit with its hybrid vigour. Hybrid barley has also been shown to suppress ryegrass and brome, with its competitive growth above ground and vigorous roots below.

Syngenta hybrid barley marketing manager Sarah Hughes says several of the benefits of SY Thunderbolt are particularly relevant to current farming challenges.

Mrs Hughes says: “Recent Syngenta research found that farm profitability, soil health, reducing fertilisers, loss of crop protection products, and reduced labour, ranked among farmers’ drivers for the next few years.”

Early maturity spreads harvest labour requirements and aids timely oilseed rape establishment against cabbage stem flea beetle. The larger root mass of hybrids could also enhance scavenging for nutrients and water. 

“The return on investment from feed barley is very attractive at current grain prices. However, recognising the challenges that growers face, we will be maintaining the 2021 seed price for hybrid barley at the same level as last year,” says Mrs Hughes.