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Malting Barley Seminar

Farmers from across the country attended the National Malting Barley Seminar organised by Teagasc in the Springhill Hotel, Kilkenny, yesterday, Monday 22 February.

The seminar was held against the backdrop of depressed grain prices and low financial margins for the sector. However, Seamus O Hara of the Carlow Brewing Company (O’Hara’s Craft Beers) addressed the conference and outlined a more positive story for the craft beer industry in Ireland. Seamus, Chairperson of the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland Association (ICBI), put in context the craft beer outputs in Ireland each year. “Craft breweries are a growing business, but still relatively small at between 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent of the overall beer market in Ireland”. Seamus went on to say “With the right momentum there is a potential to grow this to 10% of the market.”

Farmers also heard from a number of speakers on the technical side of growing malting barley. Seamus Kearney, from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the marine (DAFM) variety testing, outlined the characteristics of the major barley varieties and gave an insight into what growers could expect from some of the newer varieties.

Ciaran Hickey, Teagasc Business and Technology Tillage adviser, outlined the importance of getting the foundations of the crop correct. Areas such as, a good seed bed, base fertiliser and a targeted seed rate for the conditions are of critical importance to achieve high yield. “Growers need to establish a high shoot number to achieve high grain numbers which in turn lead to high yield,” said Ciaran. “Top growers will ensure adequate early nutrition and disease control to maintain all shoots there until harvest,” he added.

The seminar got an in-depth review of fungicide trials and the best strategies to implement in 2016 from Liz Glynn, Teagasc crops researcher. “Growers will get the best returns from two fungicide applications at tillering and at awns peeping,” said Liz. “Spending roughly equal amounts on fungicides at each timing has shown to be the best strategy for low disease through the season and high return,” according to Liz.

“Discussion Groups are an excellent way of improving profits on tillage farms,” according to Phelim McDonald, Teagasc Business and Technology Tillage advisor. Research from Teagasc discussion groups show, group members (dairy and drystock) show higher returns than farmers who are not members of a group. “The combined knowledge of discussion group members help to integrate proven research more successfully onto farms thereby improving returns,” he added.

Teagasc will hold regular crop walks through the season to further update malting barley growers.