Increasing Barley Yield

Final grain yield is made up of three components, the most consistent of which is average grain weight. Most yield variation between sites and seasons is due to differences in grain number rather than grain size. There is a strong relationship between grain number/m2 (ears/m2 x grains/ear) and yield, but only a weak relationship between average grain weight and yield.

High yields come from achieving the correct ear/spike numbers, maintaining a healthy, green leaf canopy, increasing grain numbers per ear (spike) and grain size. A balanced crop nutrition program including all macro and micro nutrients is essential to help manage all of these components. Spring barley yields about 20% less than winter barley. In spring barley, 30-35% of grain carbohydrate comes from the flag leaf and peduncle (stem), 25-45% from the ear and 20-45% from the rest of the plant.

Crop Nutrition and Barley Yield

Macronutrient Uptake in Winter Barley

Relative Nutrient Uptake of Barley in Relation to Plant Development

Nitrogen and potassium are the nutrients required in the highest quantity for maintaining high barley yields. The phosphate requirement is similar to sulphur. It is during rapid spring growth that the highest demand for all macronutrients occurs.

Average content of nitrogen phosphorus and potassium...
Average content of nitrogen phosphorus and potassium

Micronutrient Uptake in Barley

Content of secondary nutrients

A balanced crop nutrition strategy is important and should also include secondary and micronutrients which are essential elements in achieving high yields. As with macronutrients, peak demand will occur during peak growth periods. 

Transient deficiencies can occur when soil conditions are unfavourable towards nutrient availability (e.g. cold, wet ,dry). Knowing the nutrient content per tonne of production is useful and can be used together with yield levels as the basis for a full Nutrient Management Plan.

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Maintaining Barley Leaf Canopy

Maintaining Barley Leaf Canopy

The other aspect to achieving high barley yields, having established the correct canopy structure, is to maintain the green leaf area right through to the final grain filling period.