Projections are calling for another increase in barley production this year in the upper Southeast. To stay competitive with other grain and fiber crops, growers must find ways to maximize the value and reduce production costs of barley.

The continued demand for corn as a source for ethanol, plus continued high demand as livestock feed, is likely to pull the price of barley up. The new Osage Bio ethanol plant in Hopewell, Va., is basing barley prices on corn futures, so this is especially true for Virginia and Eastern Shore growers.

Despite the improvement in market value of barley, it still has to offset some price lag, compared to other grain crops. The anticipated high value of soybeans in 2011, and the documented performance of double-crop beans behind barley is also a plus.

Plant breeders have made significant increases in developing barley varieties that overcome some of the past problems growers have had with lodging of the grain crop.

Despite these advances, barley is still prone to lodge together and fall over during the production process. Finding new ways to prevent, or at least manage lodging is part of an ongoing research project at Virginia Tech University’s Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Warsaw, Va.

Researchers there are using plant growth regulators to reduce plant height and make it stiffer to reduce lodging.

Lodging is rated on a 0-9 scale, with 9 being the worst. They found with each incremental increase in lodging on the rating scale, they lost 3-4 bushels per acre. For example, a lodging scale of 3 versus 6 may mean 10 bushels per acre yield loss. Most of that loss is simply not being able to harvest the plant, but there are probably other issues involved, according to Virginia Tech Small Grain Specialist Wade Thomason.

“We have had Cerone plant growth regulator for several years and we are looking at a new one we hope to have on the market in 2011. It is a Syngenta product that has been used in Europe for several years and will likely be marketed, if it is labeled for use, as Palisade.”

Three rates of Cerone, 0.25 pint, 0.50 pint and 1.0 pint per acre were used and two rates of Palisade .09 and .11 pounds of active ingredient per acre were applied to two of the top producing hulled and hull-less barley lines in the Virginia Tech breeding program.

As of mid-May the results were visible. In Thoroughbred barley, untreated plots were 33 inches tall. Three Cerone applications each reduced height to 27 inches. The two Palisade applications reduced plant height to an average of 28 inches.