Crop Management Tips for Producing Quality Barley

IBC issues Guidance to Idaho malting barley producers on how to handle malting barley injured by sprout…

Barley growers are urged to be patient and not panic as they try to complete their 2014 harvest. We recommend producers follow these steps:

Idaho Barley Newsbrief

KIMBERLY, Idaho-Idahoans who want to know how much water their agricultural crops or native plant systems require year-round can click on, a University of Idaho Web site that’s been updated with new information by researchers Richard Allen and Clarence Robison of the UI Kimberly Research and Extension Center.

Allen’s and Robison’s new estimates for evapotranspiration, or ET, and net irrigation water requirements update a 1983 consumptive-use report by Allen that’s been used within Idaho for more than two decades to determine crop water needs. The authors include information on ET-the amount of moisture that evaporates from soils and transpires from crops-for 123 weather-station locations across Idaho. Their ET estimates encompass a wide array of agricultural crops as well as such native-plant systems as wetlands, rangelands and riparian trees and three types of open water-surfaces ranging from deep reservoirs to small farm ponds.

Allen says the updated information offers several advantages over previous reports that will make it more useful to users. It includes winter-time periods and its ET values are available on a daily basis rather than on strictly a monthly basis.

Among the new procedures incorporated in the researchers’ estimates are the American Society of Civil Engineers’ nationally standardized Penman-Monteith ET calculation method, which converts weather data into ET demands, and an updated method for determining the influence of evaporation from surface wetting. Allen’s research contributed to the Penman-Monteith ET standardization.

The detailed, localized data available on the Website are intended for use in the design and management of irrigation systems, for water rights management and consumptive water rights transfers, for hydrologic studies, for calculating complete-year water balances, and for managing land application of agriculture, food processing and other waste streams.

  • Best Management Practices for Southern Idaho Grain Producers

High energy costs mean hard choices for grain growers in the upcoming crop season. With rising energy costs squeezing ever-decreasing profits, its a critical time to streamline production practices to maximize fuel and fertilizer efficiency and to better control input costs. As you gear up for the next planting season, consider these ideas:

  • You can manage only what you measure.
  • Fertilize for realistic yield goals, not for overly optimistic targets.
  • Soil testing may be your best investment in 2007. Why guess on N, P, and K needs when fertilizer prices are spiking higher?

In a year like 2005 when production costs are expected to remain high and crop prices will remain under pressure from large grain supplies in both the US and world markets, producers will need to pay particular attention to their crop management practices. In this special risk management issue, we discuss several issues that can greatly affect the performance of your barley crop. For more detailed information on any of these topics, we refer you to the Idaho Spring Barley Production Guide (UI Bulletin No. 742), county extension offices or UI research and extension centers. Planting date will be critical if water availability is a concern, as expected in 2005.

Field Selection – When planting malting barley, avoid fields that may have high residual nitrogen such as fields with a recent manure history (1-3 years) or following crops such as potatoes, alfalfa or sweet corn. If you must follow these crops, then conduct a soil test and plan accordingly with your fertility program.

Seed germination – Malting barley producers are encouraged to test the germination of their barley seed before planting this year. Germination tests can be performed by the Idaho Grain Inspection Service in Pocatello (233-8303), Idaho State Seed Lab in Boise (332-8630) or on your own by immersing 100 grams of seed in a solution that is 9 parts distilled water and 1 part hydrogen peroxide. Allow to soak 48 hours and then count germinating kernels. The desired rate is 95% or better.

Treat seed to control diseases like loose smut, covered smut and seed decay.

Cereal Leaf Beetles

Cereal leaf beetles have now been detected in 41 of Idaho’s 44 counties. Scouting for the cereal leaf beetle (CLB) should begin when the barley crop has reached the second node stage of growth. In warmer climates of the state the scouting should probably begin even earlier. The adult CLB is approximately 1/4 to 3/16 inch long. It has a metallic dark blue head and wing covers. The area behind the head (called the pronotum) is a bright red color. The legs are reddish or slightly orange colored. Observing these characteristics should make the adult easy to spot. The adult does very little economic damage but is a good indicator of egg laying activity.

The larvae are a little larger than the adults and have a slug-like appearance. They cover themselves with their own fecal material to protect themselves from dessication and predation. The fecal material easily rubs off onto your pants as you walk in the field. Larvae will eat the surface of the leaf and will follow a pattern of eating between the leaf veins in strips along the length of the leaf. This leaves the leaf looking whitish or “frosted”. Economic damage to barley is done by the larval stage of this insect.

Economic thresholds are determined by observing a number of plants throughout the field. If the crop has not yet reached the boot stage, economic thresholds is reached when the average count equals three larvae or eggs per tiller. When the crop reaches the boot stage, you should spray when you count an average of 1 larvae per flag leaf. These thresholds were established in the 1960’s and 70’s in the eastern US. Further work needs to be done to establish accurate thresholds for Idaho conditions.


The Haanchen barley mealybug caused economic damage to Idaho’s barley crop in at least nine eastern counties in 2003. Severe damage was reported in Caribou and Fremont counties. Because winter 2005 mean precipitation and temperatures have been similar to 2003 conditions, we are advising producers in eastern Idaho to implement an aggressive scouting program this spring and summer.

Frequent inspections are advised because mealybug populations can increase very rapidly. Heavily infested plants are easy to pull out of the ground because of the poor root system. Barley plants damaged by mealybugs can be confused with drought damage. Crawlers, nymphs and adults can be concealed in leaf sheaths. At this point, we could probably use economic thresholds that were developed for Russian wheat aphid several years ago: if 10% of the plants are infested prior to flowering, immediate insecticide treatment is recommended (once insecticides have been identified and registered). The same recommendation would apply if 10-20% of the tillers (stems) were infested after flowering. The threshold percentage of tillers will depend upon the maturity of the crop, using 10% at flowering and 20% at late milk stage. From last year’s experience, university experts see little or no benefit gained by insecticide treatment.

  • Visual check – Field edges or thin areas in the field should be visually scouted for damage. The first signs of mealybug presence are masses of cottony appearance at the bases of the plants. These cottony masses are the ovisacs (cottony clusters of eggs) of the mealybugs. Both nymphs and adults injure barley plants.
  • There are two kinds of mealybug damage:
    1. Direct damage — produced by the feeding of the insects with their sucking mouthparts, reducing the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves and causing extensive yellowing and browning of the foliage. This direct damage can also be produced by toxic saliva injected by the mealybugs into the barley plant. Severe infestations in commercial fields eventually kill the plants.
    2. Indirect damage — produced by a sticky sap-like substance called honeydew. Insects produce the honeydew while they are feeding. The honeydew has the potential to reduce grain quality_reports. Black stems and grain heads can be observed in infested fields.
  • Percent of plants showing damage symptoms – Check 20 consecutive plants in 5 field locations; the first check should start at the edge of the field. The remaining samples should be taken 20-30 paces from the first on a diagonal across the field.
  • Percent of plants with live pest present – Check 10 consecutive plants in 5 field locations for live barley mealybugs. Use the same procedure as outlined above.

In a short water year like 2005, when water supplies are expected to be about 50 to 60% of normal in most locations of the state, producers need to look long and hard where water can be put to the best economic use. It will be important to target your water resources on your best soils and consider turning off water on pivot corners and end guns. If you operate a stand alone (not interconnected) pivot, you can achieve maximum flexibility by planting half of the area to a spring grain crop, like barley, and the other half to a longer season crop.

The Idaho Barley Commission is providing funding to the UI water management program to enhance the existing ET Planner Program, which includes graphical output of farm water supply (including possible water supply cutback date and amount) and the ET demand curve for user-selected combinations of crop acreages. Improvements to these irrigation planning tools will include (will be posted on UI extension drought website):

  • a pumping cost calculator to evaluate pumping cost per irrigation based on input operational parameters;
  • information on malting barley yield and quality_reports relationships to crop water stress for different dates of early irrigation cutoff;
  • graphical output of pumping.

Here are recommended water management strategies for barley this year – In general, barley crop stress will result from either under or over-watering, thereby reducing yields, test weight, plumpness and kernel brightness. Water management is critical in three time periods: Early season to establish vigorous growth and enhance later tillering; mid-season at flowering to properly fill heads and produce yields with optimum water efficiency; and in late season to avoid over-irrigation and resulting quality_reports deterioration.

Grain crops are most dependent on timely moisture in three key growth periods (in order of priority): (1) between head emergence and early grain fill, (2) during tillering, and (3) in early boot.

UI agronomists and water engineers offer the following tips this year to help growers maximize their irrigation efficiencies and overall crop productivity:

  • Early planting is recommended to take advantage of available soil moisture during the tillering stage.
  • Minimize tillage operations; you lose about an inch of moisture by moldboard plow and ½ inch for every additional tillage pass.
  • Plant certain varieties that are known to be more drought resistant. On dryland, the UI recommends a 40-50 lb. seeding rate of these feed barley varieties: 2-row – Baronesse, Xena, Camas, Criton and Hector and 6-row – Brigham, Century, Colter and Statehood. Irrigated areas that expect water shortages should seed at a 50-70 lb. rate, compared to the usual 80-100 lb seeding rate.
  • Fertilize for 40 bu yields if only one irrigation is expected and up to 50 bu for two irrigations. Producers should soil test to determine the residual N available at planting. For barley in rotation with potatoes or other row crops there may be sufficient residual to preclude any fertilization.
  • Don’t scrimp on water early in the season; a barley crop needs a good 6-7 inches of moisture (soil stored and applied) to satisfy its vegetative growth needs. You can add 5 bu yield for each additional inch of water available during the growing period.
  • If malting quality_reports is essential and water supplies are limited, consider stressing the plant during the jointing to early boot stage. This will reduce height (and lodging potential) and sacrifice some production but will stress condition the plant for subsequent moisture stress and save water to ensure adequate moisture during later grain fill when quality_reports is determined.
  • Slow down your center pivot systems to give your crop a longer, deeper drink that will put more water through the crop and avoid excessive surface evaporation; complete a full circle every 3½ to 4½ days rather than every day or 1½ days.
  • Consider center pivot nozzles that drop lower to the ground to improve energy efficiencies.
  • Conversely, surface irrigation systems need to move the water across the field as quickly as possible; consider using PAM to maximize uniformity of application and avoid runoff and soil erosion.
  • Capture and re-use surface runoff where feasible.
  • Know the water holding capacity of your soil, and match as closely as practicable the soil moisture deficit to the amount of water applied. Use Agrimet evapotranspiration estimates to predict moisture loss between sets during vegetative and grain fill stages.

These additional irrigation management guidelines will help ensure a successful barley crop… The first and second irrigations are vital to early crop growth and tillering when yield potential is determined. The first water application should be managed according to your soil moisture level and crop needs rather than the calendar. Experts caution against delaying the first irrigation because of chemical applications and other management priorities. They also caution against over-watering during this stage as the root system is shallow and excess water will cause nitrogen leaching. Excessive moisture may also cause the seedling to rot and may create a field environment for disease problems.

UI recommendations: The first irrigation should be set on an 8-hour schedule (usual practice is 12 hours) in order to keep the moisture in the root zone. Soil moisture levels in the root zone should be maintained above 50 percent ASM (available soil moisture) throughout the growing season for maximum spring barley yields. To maintain soil moisture above 50% ASM, a soil with a total water holding capacity of 4.0 inches in the top 3 feet of soil profile would need to be irrigated before available soil moisture dropped below 2.0 inches. Producers should be particularly careful to keep the soil moisture above 50% ASM during tillering and flowering. For more information, refer to UI Extension Publication on CIS 1039 Irrigation Scheduling.

The last irrigation is also critical to finishing the crop and maintaining quality_reports. Without careful management, some producers will get behind in their irrigation scheduling, and if the soil moisture is short, will have to irrigate later than is desirable from a quality_reports standpoint. Unneeded irrigations consume energy, waste water, increase lodging, reduce grain quality_reports and inflate production costs.

UI recommendations: At the soft dough stage, if the soil is moist then no additional irrigation is needed unless on very sandy soils.

Effective at low rates, Cruiser® reduces stress on young seedlings caused by insects while providing consistent performance under a wide range of growing conditions (i.e. in wet and dry conditions). Cruiser® has an excellent seed safety profile while protecting against seed, soil and foliar chewing and sucking insect pests, including wireworms and aphids.

Cruiser® and Gaucho® seed treatments have been shown to provide effective control of insect pests in barley and improve plant stand, yield and vigor. Cruiser® is a seed-applied insecticide labeled on barley, manufactured by Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., Greensboro, NC. The following product information was provided by Syngenta.

Benefits of Cruiser® –

  • Convenient to use.
  • High levels of safety to workers, the crop and the environment. User-friendly neo-nicontinoid chemistry (26 times safer than Lindane based on LD 50).
  • Rapid uptake in wet and dry conditions.
  • Superior protection against aphids, thus preventing the transmission of BYDV.
  • Provides protection against wireworms.
  • Improves plant vigor/yields in the absence of wireworms.
  • Fully compatible with Dividend Extreme or Dividend® XL RTA® seed treatment fungicides.

Gaucho® is another seed-applied insecticide manufactured by Bayer Crop Sciences Seed Division, Research Triangle Park, NC (formerly Gustafson).

The following product information was provided by Bayer. Gaucho® provides superior protection against wireworms, aphids and the costly yield losses they cause. Researchers are also seeing mounting evidence that Gaucho® is effective against cereal mealy bugs and cereal leaf beetles with the 1.5 to 2.0 fluid ounce application rate.

Benefits of Gaucho® –

  • Protects against aphids, which is important because these widely found pests infect cereal crops with Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus. The Russian wheat aphid also carries a toxin that is damaging to cereals.
  • Is applied to the seed before planting, so it begins protecting the plant immediately. Gaucho® disrupts the feeding activity of aphids and other target pests, protecting the seed and young seedling and giving the plan the optimum opportunity to survive and thrive.
  • Offers an excellent environmental and worker safety profile. Because it is a highly active product, Gaucho® protects against wireworms at an extremely low rate – a mere 50 parts per million of product (0.16 fluid ounces of Gaucho 480 per cwt. of seed) and is effective against other pests at higher rates.
  • Growers can use Gaucho® by combining it with fungicides such as Raxil XT, Raxil MD or Raxil MD Extra. It is also available in Gaucho XT.

Gaucho® delivers a proven yield advantage and has been thoroughly tested and widely used for a number of years.

The Idaho Barley and Wheat Commissions continue to offer interest rate buy-down incentives on loans for farm grain bins. Producers who intend to produce a grain crop which needs to be binned separately to maintain quality_reports, like malting barley, are eligible to apply to the IBC/IWC fund for a 2% interest rate buy-down on a maximum five year loan for one storage unit, with benefits not to exceed $1,750.

Interested producers are encouraged to submit a one-page application to the IBC/IWC fund, documenting the loan terms. Interest rate incentives will be calculated on the principal owed at the beginning of each year of the loan and buy-down payments will be made directly to the lender. Producers and their lenders are encouraged to use this interest rate buy-down in conjunction with other available assistance, including USDA/FSA Farm Storage Facility Loan Program.

University of Idaho / College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Spring barley is an important crop in Idaho with approximately 700,000 acres harvested annually. Profitable barley production requires the integration and use of the latest and best information to ensure economical production of a high quality_reports crop. This publication presents the best management practices and varieties for Idaho barley producers.