Integration of Winter Barley and Management Intensive Grazing
Farmer/Grower grant # FNE 05-558
159 Atkinson Road
Charleston, Me 04422
The goals of this project were to examine the efficacy of growing winter barley in Maine, extend the grazing season through early season grazing of the barley, determine grazing effects on the time of harvest and yield of the barley, and assess the health benefits gained from the increased energy supplied to the winter feed program.
Clovercrest Farm is an organic dairy, milking 50 Jerseys. There are approximately 100A of field that is used for pasture (grazing), hay, and recently small grains. Grazing accounts for nearly 100% of feed intake during the season (April – November). Wrapped round bales are stored for the winter. Rising costs of imported grains have precipitated local grain production. Due to the early planting dates of spring grains, when fields are difficult to get on to, winter grains offer a good alternative. However, the hardier grains such as wheat offer less nutritional benefits than grains such as barley.
We discussed barley varieties with Extension faculty and we decided to choose Pennco. Pennco winter barley is a newer variety and was chosen for this project based on its winter hardiness in Pennsylvania. This project was designed to support or refute these claims for Maine’s more northerly climate. In the previous winter, we no- tilled winter barley in another section of the farm with poor survivability, but attributed that to late planting and wet soils.
Two sections of field were chosen for their southerly aspect and higher elevation, hoping to increase chances of winter survival. Section I (MacPh) is approximately 4 acres and was planted at a rate of 125#/A on September 30, 2005. Section II (Greatx) is approximately 3 acres and was planted at a rate of 135#/A on October 1st, 2005. Both sections were originally paced out to 5 acres, but due to wetter field conditions surrounding the final area, it was decided that the seed would be better utilized in a smaller area with higher chance of success, as winter barley does poorly in wet ground.
Emergence occurred in a surprising 4 days. Growth continued to 1-3 inches before the weather cooled, upon which the stand held steady. A late “Indian summer” (very warm temperatures for November!) spurred a bit more growth, where plants did not grow taller, but spread out.
Both sections had a moderately nice stand of barley (a bit shorter than ideal) under the snow.
Despite a successful and timely fall seeding, we were disappointed with the results we found in the spring. Plant stands looked good at first, but any growth we saw was stunted and yellow. Consultations were made with Extension Specialists and Educators who all confirmed winter damage. By mid May, the project was determined to be a failure, even with a relatively mild (but snow-less) winter in Charleston. Since this was our second year with poor results, we have decided that Winter Barley is Not a Good Choice for North Central Maine (Zone 4).
Results of this project have been disseminated in a variety of ways. The Maine Organic Milk Producers (MOMP) has a quarterly newsletter and has contained an article about the project. The fall 2006 Maine dairy forage conference included a farmer panel to discuss winter Barley as a grain or forage crop. This was written up in Country Folks as well (Dec 2006). During that panel discussion one farmer in Turner (Zone 5 and non-organic) indicated good success with winter barley and a heavy pre-plant fertilization program.
Work continues with other SARE related Projects on grain production. We are cooperators on a SARE Research and Education project with Extension Educator Rick Kersbergen and have several other winter grains now planted in our farming system, including winter wheat and spelt.
January 3, 2007
Pictures and a copy of a Country Folks Article can be obtained by contacting the Northeast SARE office in Burlington VT.