Acid tolerance a big plus in the west

Barley acid tolerance a big plus in the west

Grain
Sam and Bob Nixon, together with Craig Beard (right) were happy with how Buff barley performed at their Kalannie farm in WA last season.

Sam and Bob Nixon, together with Craig Beard (right) were happy with how Buff barley performed at their Kalannie farm in WA last season.

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A new Intergrain barley variety with solid acid tolerance has won the thumbs up from growers.

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WITH increasingly problematic subsoil acidity, barley with acid tolerance is a big plus for farmers in the eastern wheat belt in Western Australia.

A new barley cultivar from plant breeder Intergrain is set to swell the options for farmers with soil constraints.

Buff is now part of the Intergain suite of barley lines, alongside Litmus, the pioneering acid-tolerant barley line.

And growers are pleased with the option, which is especially useful on the lighter ground that tends to have the worst problems with acidity.

The Nixon family farm at Kalannie, 260km north-east of Perth.

Bob Nixon, a 2017 Nuffield scholar who looked into risk management in dry regions, said 2019 was a challenging season, with low rainfall, but said the family managed to harvest 15,000 hectares of wheat, barley, canola, lupins and field peas.

"All crops were below average, but have performed well considering how dry and warm the growing season was," Mr Nixon said in early December.

Barley has long been a critical part of the rotation on the family farm, which features shallow saline water tables.

Much of the barley plant is the Spartacus variety, grown on valley floor type country, but the family also bulked up the new Buff line on lighter soils and gravelly ground, where subsoil acidity is yield limiting, even with liming.

"Subsoil acidity and associated aluminium toxicity continues to be a big problem for much of the eastern wheatbelt, including our farm, as it's expensive, difficult to fully ameliorate and takes time to fix." Mr Nixon said.

"Acid tolerant varieties like Litmus and, hopefully, Buff, will continue to play a role."

Mr Nixon is optimistic that Buff will match Litmus on acid country and perform well against Spartacus on better, more traditional barley growing country where Litmus falls away in terms of yield.

"Our Buff bulk-up was a highlight of our 2019 cropping year, yielding 2.23 tonnes a hectare and impressing me as a competitive barley, with good height and which harvested well."

Buff was also impressive in the 2018 Kalannie NVT, topping the trial by more than 1 t/ha and generated much interest in the area where it fitted local programs.

It is available for planting in 2020 as a feed variety and is farmer to farmer trade approved.

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