Nine varieties have made it on to the winter barley recommended list (Table 1), which was released by the Department of Agriculture this week.

Molly is the only new variety on the list and is now provisionally recommended, along with Bordeaux, which made its way on to the list in 2023.

Belfry, KWS Cassia, KWS Infinity, KWS Joyau, KWS Tardis, LG Casting and SY Armadillo are all fully recommended.

The choice on this list is a credit to the seed houses in this country that work hard to get varieties to suit our climate.

Winter barley is an extremely important crop in this country and after falling in area by about 20,000ha in 2023, it is expected to return to more normal levels this season, weather permitting.

SY Armadillo is the highest yielding variety on the list.

SY Armadillo is by far the highest yielder on the list, with a relative yield score of 109. Belfry and KWS Joyau are next on that front with scores of 105, while KWS Tardis hits 104 and Molly is at 102.

There is generally good straw strength on the list. However, the most recent entries do seem to have less resistance to lodging.

KWS Joyau is the earliest ripener on the list with a score of eight, while KWS Cassia, Infinity and Tardis all score a six for earliness or ripening.

Disease resistance

On the disease front, Belfry and SY Armadillo have the best resistance to rhynchosporium with scores of eight, while all varieties apart from Bordeaux (six) score a seven for net blotch and Molly awaits a score on this front.

On mildew, LG Casting and Molly score highest with eight.

Grain quality

On quality, it's still hard to beat KWS Cassia. Cassia has a hectolitre weight (KPH) this year of 70.8. KWS Joyau and Tardis followed with KPHs of 69.5.

KWS Tardis looks good on grain quality. \ Donal O' Leary

Molly topped the list on thousand grain weight at 56.5, while Tardis followed at 55.6 and Cassia came in at 53.4.

Reducing the risk of BYDV

Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) is a huge problem in winter barley since the loss of neonicotinoids.

Many farmers are now well accustomed to KWS Joyau, which claims to have tolerance to BYDV.

New addition to the list Molly claims to have BYDV resistance and growers will no doubt be interested to try it out.

Molly winter barley claims BYDV resistance. / Barry Cronin

After a wet planting season in autumn 2022, growers will be keen to get planting early. However, delayed planting is one of the main methods of reducing BYDV infection in winter crops.

Planting a variety with BYDV tolerance or resistance allows farmers to plant a bit earlier, as it provides some insurance, as it has a lower risk of being affected with BYDV.

Order seed

Order seed as soon as you can to ensure that you get the variety that you want and that best suits your farming system.

Many will probably start sowing early this year if the weather allows after the wet season last autumn. If you are going early, have a plan.

Use BYDV tolerance or resistance in the first days of planting. If grass weeds are a problem, delay sowing for as long as possible or leave these fields for another crop.

Seed availability

Table 2 shows the areas of seed planted to certain varieties.

It should be noted that this is the area planted and not necessarily the breakdown of seed, as some seed may not have passed specifications, but it gives a good idea of what is available for each variety.