Winter barley is a cereal with the shortest growing season among all winter cereals. The optimal sowing date for this species is from the 1st to the 2nd decade of September and depends on the region of the country and weather conditions. It is not recommended to postpone the sowing date, as it contributes to excessive field bulge, which adversely affects the overwintering of the crop and increases the disease pressure in the autumn. Too late sowing date may, however, result in insufficient branching. Early ripening of winter barley and leaving the field contributes to better harvest organization, but also allows for the cultivation of catch crops, which improve the quality of the soil, especially in rotation with a high proportion of cereals.
The cultivation of winter barley is characterized by a high yielding potential and high resistance to spring drought. However, it is distinguished by lower winter hardiness than other winter crops. Therefore, winter barley should be grown in regions with milder winters. This cereal is very sensitive to unregulated pH. The optimum pH of the soil should be in the range of pH 6.0 - 7.0. Too low soil pH disturbs plant hardening and, consequently, may reduce winter hardiness and yield.
Winter barley is a plant that is successful on various soils, but for economic reasons it is recommended to limit it to a defective wheat complex and a very good and good rye complex. The best pre-crops for winter barley are winter rapeseed, peas, early potatoes or legume mixtures intended for seeds. On the other hand, it is not recommended to cultivate winter barley in monoculture, which may contribute to an increase in infection with fungal diseases, especially with sub-pillow diseases. Winter barley is one of the most demanding cereals, and therefore needs careful cultivation. Post-harvest and pre-sowing cultivation should be done in a timely manner. Soil cultivation varies depending on the forecrop.
Stubble cultivation should be done with a grubber, plow or disc harrow, while sowing plowing should be done at least two to three weeks before sowing to allow the soil to settle down. Sowing in non-aged soil often contributes to the poor overwintering of barley.
If you plan to sow winter barley after rapeseed, it is worth plowing at a depth of 16-20 cm, while if the forecrop was a cereal plant - at a depth of 25 cm. This prevents the emergence of seeds that have fallen off the pre-crop. In the case where the forecrop was an early or medium-early potato, shallower plowing (12-15 cm) can be performed.
After harvesting the forecrop or - if possible - before sowing it, it is worthwhile to regulate the pH of the soil. On very acidic soils, it is recommended to use carbonate or oxide lime. In the case of low soil magnesium content, it is worth using magnesium lime. If calcium fertilizers have already been applied, an appropriate basic fertilization must be carried out.
Winter barley has a very poorly developed root system, therefore it has high fertilization requirements. With the yield of 1 ton of grain and the appropriate weight of straw, winter barley absorbs on average 23-26 kg of nitrogen (N), 11 kg of phosphorus (P2O5), 22 kg of potassium (K2O), 7 kg of calcium (CaO), 4.5 kg of magnesium ( MgO), 3.5 kg of sulfur (S) or as SO3 - 9 kg and 5 g of boron (B), 9 g of copper (Cu), 260 g of iron (Fe), 70 g of manganese (Mn), 0, 7 g of molybdenum (Mo) and 60 g of zinc (Zn).
In autumn, fertilization of winter barley with nitrogen should be carried out only if necessary, i.e. in the case of less fertile soils or poor forecrop. The pre-sowing dose should not exceed 20 kg N per hectare, and if the soil is in good condition, autumn fertilization is unnecessary. Excess nitrogen could accelerate plant growth, which is not recommended especially in the case of early sowing. This could contribute to a deterioration in winter hardiness. The optimal amount of nitrogen in the soil stimulates the plants to develop the root system, which is the basis for a better overwintering and thus an increase in yield.
Therefore, it is recommended to use the basic dose of nitrogen in the spring. Considering that winter barley needs about 20-25 kg N for each expected ton of grain, the grain yield of 5 t/ha requires 100 to 125 kg N per hectare. Due to the fact that nitrogen is a very mobile element in the soil, this dose should be divided and applied on two dates. The first date is when the vegetation starts. Then, from 40 kg N/ha should be sown if the cereal is well-branching and dense, up to 60 kg N/ha if the plantation is poor. In the first dose of nitrogen, it is best to use fertilizers with which sulfur is additionally introduced. The second dose should be applied during the stem shooting phase, when the first nod is felt and it should be in the range of 50 to 70 kg N per hectare. Such divided doses of nitrogen will contribute to an increase in the yield and protein content in the grain. In the case of malting barley, the breeder's fertilization recommendations should be taken into account.
Phosphorus and potassium are among the basic ingredients that should be used before sowing winter barley. The first element is responsible, inter alia, for the rapid and proper growth of the root system. A well-developed root system is able to take up more water and nutrients from the soil. Plants adequately supplied with phosphorus start growing early in the spring and are more vigorous. Phosphorus also intensifies flowering and causes better graining of the ears, which translates into a higher yield.
Potassium, on the other hand, is a component consumed by winter barley in large amounts and fulfills many very important functions in plant nutrition. It controls the water balance, which increases resistance to drought, regulates the closing and opening of the stomata and thickens the cell juices, thanks to which it improves the overwintering of plants. It also determines the effectiveness of nitrogen fertilization, and this may significantly reduce the costs associated with fertilization with this component.
The dose of phosphorus and potassium fertilizers depends on many factors. First of all, the nutritional needs of the plant should be taken into account, depending on the planned yield level, the content of assimilable forms of phosphorus and potassium in the soil, and the fertilizing value provided by crop residues or natural fertilizers introduced into the soil.
Once the fertilization needs are determined, the fertilizer should be selected and the date of its application should be selected. In the cultivation of winter barley, both multi-component and single fertilizers can be used. When choosing a fertilizer, remember to take into account not only its price, but also the chemical form of the component found in the fertilizer, because very often they are poorly soluble in water, and thus inaccessible to plants. However, when it comes to the time of using phosphorus-potassium fertilization, it is recommended to perform it before sowing for sowing plowing. The fertilizers can also be sown after plowing, but then you have to remember that pre-sowing cultivation must be made to a greater depth in order to thoroughly mix the fertilizer with the soil.
Proper soil preparation for sowing, i.e. balanced fertilization with macronutrients, is the basis for achieving a satisfactory grain yield. However, you should also remember to supplement the micronutrients. The best way to do this are foliar fertilizers, which allow plants to be effectively fed and provide them with microelements that are difficult to assimilate from the soil.
Winter barley is a crop particularly sensitive to a deficiency of copper, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. Copper is responsible for kernel formation in the ear, and is also involved in the production of lignin, which is responsible for the stiffness of the stalk and mechanical resistance. The use of copper also contributes to the reduction of fungal disease. Manganese, on the other hand, participates in the production of chlorophyll and protein synthesis, improves resistance to drought and disease, and increases winter hardiness. Molybdenum improves nitrogen utilization and transformation. Zinc has important physiological functions as a component of various enzymes. It is worth starting foliar nutrition in autumn in order to prepare plants for winter, especially important elements in this period are copper and manganese. They contribute to building the yield potential and better overwintering. Spring is another period where foliar fertilization is of great importance. This method allows you to quickly provide the plant with key ingredients. The next foliar fertilization should be performed in the phase from shooting to the beginning of earing, because it is the moment when there is a very high probability of reducing the future yield.
Winter barley is harvested at the stage of wax or full maturity, i.e. when the grain reaches 14-15% moisture. Too dry grain is exposed to mechanical damage. Most often, this date falls on the first decade of July. A delay in harvesting will result in infestation of the grains by fungi.