Maltster reports variable quality within huge barley yield

Holt Farmers' Club Grain Competition 2015. From left, spring barley winner John Ross, Bob King of Cr

Holt Farmers' Club Grain Competition 2015. From left, spring barley winner John Ross, Bob King of Crisp Maltings, and winter barley winner Peter Perry-Warnes - Credit: Submitted

Barley growers were told that the second 'phenomenal' harvest in a row had brought another large yield – although grain quality was more varied than last year.

At Holt Farmers' Club's meeting on Wednesday, Bob King, commercial director at Crisp Malting Group in Great Ryburgh, presented the annual prizes for the best barley samples grown by club members.

Overall, he said the 2015 harvest represented a return to normal after last year's record-breaking haul, but the majority of deliveries to the maltings were still meeting the quality specifications required by the distilling and brewing industries.

'I said last year was the best-ever crop of malting barley, and this year proves it,' he said. 'We have gone back to normal.

'We have had two years of phenomenal yields, but grain quality didn't look like the previous year.

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'The winter barley crop nitrogen levels were virtually identical, but grain size was a little bit lower, although still perfectly acceptable.

'Spring barley was very different to last year. At this time last year we had taken in 35,000 tonnes into Ryburgh and the average nitrogen was 1.35pc. Today we have taken in the same quantity at 1.57pc. We have actually had some barleys that failed on nitrogen this year and I think that reflects the way things have gone. We have had a lot of big bold barley, but there was a lack of rainfall so there is a bit more variation.

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'The wider UK harvest has produced 7m tonnes of barley. We have got something like a surplus 1m tonne of malting barley in Europe, of which 800,000 tonnes is in the UK. That is the second year running Europe has produced a million tonnes more barley than it needs. It is a sign of the times and it shows we are going to have to compete on barley exports.'

Mr King said the Maris Otter barley variety, whose malt is favoured by many commercial and craft brewers, had produced a very large yield from its 50th anniversary harvest.

Peter Perry-Warnes, who was re-elected as club chairman earlier in the meeting, won the winter barley competition with a sample of Flagon grown at Wood Dalling, near Fakenham.

John Ross, of Houghton St Giles near Walsingham, won the spring barley competition with a crop of Concerto – the variety coming out on top for the fifth year running.

In the 50th year of Maris Otter, a special prize was awarded to GW Harrold and Partners for the best sample of the variety.

The meeting at the Feathers Hotel in Holt also saw Bill Poortvliet replace Richard Harrison as president.

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