Innovation and Technology key to Scotland's Biggest Crop

Union backing for Barley Innovation Centre
Innovation and technology are key to ensuring Scotland’s biggest crop – barley – can continue to be grown profitably on Scottish farms.
Speaking at an industry day at the James Hutton Institute near Dundee, NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said the key challenges for barley growers, like himself, were to remain competitive in the face of technological, environmental and climatic challenges and to be in a position to meet the widening needs of distillers and brewers. 
Mr Bowie was taking part in an industry round table to discuss the Institute’s proposal to establish an International Barley Innovation Centre at the site, something which NFUS fully supports. 
Addressing other delegates, Mr Bowie said: “Barley remains Scotland’s largest crop and one that is grown for real markets.  It provides the raw material for our multibillion pound whisky and brewing industries that are central to the success of Scotland’s food and drink industry and, in whisky, a major part of our export trade.
“For growers, our challenges are many.  They include the need to remain competitive despite loss of access to technological tools, including plant protection products.
“If we are to be profitable, we need to meet the demands of all our customers, recognising that across distilling and brewing a widening range of nitrogen and Glycosidic Nitrile (GN) levels are being sought.
“We also need to be able to cope with growing environmental demands; an un-level playing field in the ‘greening’ rules being imposed by Scottish Government and – most importantly in a season like this – the weather.  Scotland’s climate is well-suited for growing barley but changing weather patterns seem to make each harvest a challenge. 
“That is why we view the establishment of a Barley Innovation Centre here in Scotland as a hugely important and potentially beneficial development.  It would be ideally placed to tackle the specific needs of barley growers here in Scotland.
“We need reliable varieties able to produce good results and meet customer requirements in conditions that can be far from ideal and with lower inputs required. We need to overcome the yield plateau in our crops to meet growing demand but without extending the growing season further.  We need to tackle splitting and skinning in crops.
“That requires innovation.  Farmers may be well placed to see the problems in the field but it is scientists who have the knowledge and skills to recognise what might be done to resolve them.  Basic research could identify approaches that are completely novel.
“JHI is already working on areas such as soils and crop rotation that may provide potential solutions.  So it is simply a case of building on that valuable base.
“Plant genetics have also been key to increased yields, matching quality requirements and also providing protection against diseases.  The mapping of the barley genome and associated work in unlocking information could be of great importance.  New technological advances, including – but not exclusively – work on genetic modification, offers ways of putting that information to use much more rapidly than was possible in the past.”
Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 162/15

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