Yield response of Bere, a Scottish barley landrace, to cultural practices and agricultural inputs

Peter Martin, Xianmin Chang, John Wishart

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There is very little documented about the response of cereal landraces to modern agricultural practices. Bere is a Scottish barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) landrace which is grown in Orkney to supply meal for baking. A recent research programme has improved yields and the security of the Bere harvest, making it possible to supply a new market for grain to produce specialist whiskies. At the start of this research, a survey of Orkney farmers who had grown Bere since the 1980s showed that most had planted it at the traditional time in mid-May, used few inputs and considered the main constraints of the crop to be low yield (2.8 to 3.8 t/ha) and susceptibility to lodging. Three years of trials in Orkney between 2003 and 2005 showed very significant increases in grain yield (17-76%) and thousand grain weight from planting Bere earlier, in the second half of April. This also had the advantage of an earlier and more secure harvest. Yields showed smaller, but often significant, increases (5-11%) from applying mineral fertiliser, growth regulator or fungicide, while combinations of growth regulator and fungicide increased yields from 10-22%. In spite of usually increasing grain yield, growth regulator did not always control lodging. Although the use of inputs often increased the gross margins of growing Bere, a trial in 2005 showed that early planting was a more cost effective single intervention than either the use of fungicide or growth regulator. By increasing grower profits and reducing harvesting risks, these results have made it viable for more farmers to grow Bere in its region of origin, providing growers and end-users with additional income and contributing to the in situ conservation of this landrace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-60
JournalJournal of Agriculture for International Development
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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