Promoters say winter barley offers high yields, good prices
By MATTHEW WEAVER
The Idaho Barley Commission wants more farmers to plant winter barley in south-central Idaho.
A combination of 20 to 35 percent higher yields than spring barley varieties and strong prices add up to an opportunity for growers, according to the commission.
Feed barley prices in the Magic Valley have more than doubled in the last year, from an average of $2.87 per bushel in July 2010 to $5.75 per bushel in July 2011.
Kelly Olson, commission administrator, said there's a strong demand for feed grains in the area, the epicenter of the state's dairy industry.
Feed manufacturers and processors prefer local crops, Olson said.
Joy Kinyon, division manager at feed supplier and manufacturer Rangen, Inc., said barley is a key component in animal feed rations. It is used in conjunction with corn to provide a balanced diet.
Barley typically trades at a $15 to $30 per ton discount to corn, which is currently more than $300 per ton, Kinyon said.
Increased barley use would help keep feed costs down.
The increased price of feed barley is competitive with malt barley prices, he said.
"It gives the farmer more options to market their crop themselves without getting locked into a season-long contract with malt barleys," he said. "This year, feed barley prices are probably as high or higher than contracted prices for farmers growing malt barley are receiving."
Area farmers are already growing a modest amount of feed barley.
The Magic Valley region can most likely avoid winterkill with best management practices, including soil testing, standard seeding rates, good irrigation and early planting into firm seed beds, she said.
For the moment, the campaign is limited to the Magic Valley. A limited amount of seed is available, Olson said.
Winter barleys are also being tested in northern Idaho.
The commission is mailing information to all growers in the Magic Valley.
Yield, market price and demand will ultimately determine how much barley producers plant, he said.
Winter barley varieties available for planting in fall 2011:
Sunstar Pride -- Yield potential of 180 bushels/acre
812 -- Yields of 160 to 180 bushels/acre
Sunstar Double -- Yields of 140 to 160 bushels/acre (shorter and stronger straw)
Maja -- Yields of 140 to 160 bushels/acre (earlier maturity)
Endeavor -- Yields of 140 to 160 bushels/acre
-- Idaho Barley Commission
Idaho Barley Commission: www.idahobarley.org
Rangen Inc.: www.rangen.com