Barley is a high quality, high-yielding forage and grain crop, but it needs a little more time to get there. It is not as winter hardy as other small grains and is usually planted earlier – about a month. This gives it more opportunity to establish and grow tillers in the fall, giving it added strength and energy stores to survive the winter. This year, many of our customers were requesting barley well past the ideal late September planting date in Lancaster County, Pa, so it may useful to see a comparison of barley now (December 5) from early and late planting dates.
We went out to the plots this week and did a few pre-winter evaluations of our winter annuals. This gives us a baseline to evaluate winter hardiness and winter survivability – do the less mature and less vigorous stands make a comeback over the winter, or will they suffer a permanent setback?
This picture shows the effect of a month on barley planting in our research strips. The barley on the left is mixed with annual ryegrass and was planted on October 21 at a rate of 172 lbs/A (70% barley, 30% annual ryegrass), and in the righthand strip the barley was planted on September 18, a more typical barley planting date in Southeastern PA, at a rate of 100 lbs/A. In this strip, the barley was mixed with 25 lbs of crimson clover.
Despite the much the lower seeding rate in the early strip, the extra month of growth exposes it to many more accumulated heat units and precipitation events, so it exhibits vigor and tillering.
The earlier strip is more likely to survive the winter, and we suspect it may be perfect for grazing at this point. We plan to cut biomass samples for yield and quality now, and evaluate later in the spring for regrowth, as well as a first cutting in areas we did not sample.