Bar Tech February 2021

Welcome to our February BarTech with thoughts, tops tips and advice from the UK Grass Experts. The understanding, knowledge and utilisation of efficient grassland management will be at the heart of the livestock and wider farming communities' response to the economic and environmental challenges that will continue to gain momentum over the next ten years. Find out as we explore our roots in the UK.

Thoughts from the MD

Grass is the future for the challenges facing the industry


The challenges facing farmers today are enormous, with uncertainty around changes to CAP payments and questions about how farming will be valued in generations to come. Climate change and extreme weather events, biodiversity loss and soil erosion, cheap imports and rising costs are all threatening UK farming's viability in the future, leading to farmers either leaving the business altogether or experiencing burnout.


Efficient grassland management will be at the heart of the livestock industry's response to the economic and environmental challenges that will rise over the next ten years. Making the best use of grass makes sense economically, with grass at the very heart of the farming sectors response to the growing environmental challenges that confront it. Grassland systems will help lower the phosphorous and ammonia footprint in the sector while, at the same time, improving water quality. Maintaining soils at their optimal pH level will also help maximise the amount of carbon sequestration achieved by the farming industry as a whole.


Increasing the carbon storage capacity of soils is now widely regarded as a fundamental way of mitigating greenhouse gases' impact on our climate. Many of our grassland soils are too acidic: they require lime. Research has confirmed that bringing these soils up to their optimal pH level will significantly improve the amount of carbon sequestration achieved.


'Holistic grazing' is also showing positive changes in the farmed swards. Many swards are leading to taller grasses with deeper root systems and greater sward resilience. Holistic management is a decision-making framework that is all about looking at the whole farm system and how it all works together to benefit the business' social, economic, and environmental sides in equal measures.


Like many agricultural producing nations worldwide, interest in improving agricultural practices builds a head of steam in the UK. Whatever the future holds, whatever aspects of regenerative systems prove their worth in leading our industry to a better world, Barenbrug UK will play a role in lighting the way.


Paul Johnson

Herbage Seed Production - Rooted in the UK

stripper headerHerbage seed production is a high risk, high reward crop which can yield gross margins more than £1,000/Ha for good mixed farmers with a keen eye for detail. Over 8,000 Ha of herbage seed is grown annually in the UK for the agricultural and amenity markets via a network of over 100 growers.


Growers who produce herbage seed have an excellent control of Blackgrass and Vulpia for fields selected for herbage seed production. Herbage seed production is quite different to producing a forage crop, in that rather than producing lots of vegetation we want to promote tillering in each plant which then in turn produce seed heads. Plant populations are therefore a lot lower than for forage crops, typically only 10 kgs/ha is used to establish a seed crop. A four-year break must be left between grass crops. Isolation from other grass crops is also key, if similar ploidy (diploid and tetraploid) is grown next to each other, isolation measures need to be implemented to prevent cross pollination occurring.


Drilling usually takes place in the autumn and all crops should be established by the end of September. Harvesting takes place in the following July/August dependant on the heading date of the variety being produced. There is also an option to drill in the spring using a companion crop such as spring barley . After the barley has been harvested, the grass crop will be visible in the stubble which can then be grazed using sheep from October - February dependant on the ground conditions.


The crop is inspected by a licensed seed inspector prior to harvest. The inspector will look at different plants in the standing crop and check that the correct isolations are in place for neighbouring crops. Harvesting takes place over two consecutive years with an option on a third year if the crop is deemed clean enough at the end of the second-year harvest. Harvesting techniques vary between two systems, mow when the seed is around 45% moisture content and dry in field for a period of 5-6 days and pick up using a draper header or use a stripper header direct into the standing crop when the moisture content is around 30%. Crop drying is the most critical and important part of the process, a drying floor must be used to dry the crop. The crop must be loaded onto the floor at a depth of no more than 1 metre deep and ambient air blown through the crop. The crop must be turned at least once per day to allow even drying. The moisture content of the seed must be below 14%, anything above this will lead to germination issues and rejection of the crop which will make it worthless. Once the crop is below 14% the seed can be taken off the drying floor and stored in a barn in a heap like grain storage. Monitoring of the heap for temperature and moisture content post drying is also a critical part of the process.


Once the crop is dry (or conditioned) an as-grown sample will be taken to confirm the moisture content, purity, and germination. This test will also highlight any weed seed issues.

Crop cleaning takes place from August through until early April. The as-grown seed is collected and taken to a cleaning plant where the crop is cleaned, packed, and certified. The crop passes over a series of sieves and cleaning cylinders to remove inert matter such as stick, stalk and chaff along with some weed seed species. Seed lots are created and samples of each are sent to a licensed testing laboratory, where each lot is examined under a standard known as HVS (Higher Voluntary Standard) for herbage seed prior to certification. The grower pays for the crop to be cleaned based on the purity of the as-grown result. This is to encourage growers to produce clean, weed free samples.


Growers are paid in three instalments in October, January, and May on a 30%, 30% 40% basis.


Producing herbage seed provides a good two- or three-year break crop, provides improved soil health and provides forage options for livestock. If carried out correctly herbage seed production provides an excellent profitable break crop option.

Grow grass seed for Barenbrug UK, as one of our exclusive UK growers. Find out more and meet Richard Turner to see how we can help you. 

Improving grass varieties increases profitability on farm


Find out more about our research and development of grass for agriculture.


Reseeding with improved ryegrass varieties has been shown to increase on-farm production efficiencies year on year in terms of grass utilization and livestock output. The AFBI ryegrass breeding programme, at Loughgall, in N. Ireland, has been successfully improving ryegrasses for more than 60 years, crossing the best with the best to make steady improvements in important economic traits, such as yield and quality.  Into the future, environmental traits, such as nutrient efficiency, carbon sequestration and tolerance to stress, will all become even more important than they are today, and breeding for improvements in ryegrass will have an important part to play in how we deal with such emerging threats to farm production.


The AFBI ryegrass breeding programme has been in place at Loughgall since 1952, and since then more than 50 varieties have been included on recommended lists, making it one of the most successful programmes in the UK and Ireland. These varieties are persistent and high-yielding for grazing and conservation and are specifically bred for best performance on farms in the UK. New modern varieties produce 10% more in yield per hectare than varieties used twenty years ago, and also possess improvements in other traits, such as disease-resistance and winter-hardiness.  Considerable effort has also been invested into breeding for improved digestibility at every stage in the breeding programme, as highly digestible forage produces more meat and milk. Improvements in all of these traits translate directly to increased grass utilization and decreased feed costs for farmers who regularly reseed with new improved varieties.


Grass breeding takes a long time: it can take up to 15 years to produce each variety at a cost of around half a million pounds each, highlighting the huge investment that breeders make to produce only the very best possible grasses for use on farm. Initial crosses are made between pairs of selected mother plants under controlled conditions, crossing the best with the best to combine traits of interest and ultimately produce improved daughter plants, which become new varieties.  Large-scale testing of these varieties is then conducted across the UK and Ireland to ensure that only the best-performing varieties on farm make it to market. All varieties ultimately go through a stringent national listing process, by which varieties are independently tested at sites across the UK to ensure that only the best and most-improved varieties make it into recommended lists for use in the UK.


The ongoing research and development work undertaken by the AFBI grass breeding programme ensures that a steady supply of new varieties are produced that can meet the requirements of the grassland and livestock industries in the UK. Initial grass-breeding research is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in N. Ireland, with near-market research funded by our long-standing commercial partner Barenbrug.  Continued investment in the programme, strongly enhanced by our excellent connection with the commercial sector, will ensure a steady supply of new grasses, which can meet the ever changing demands of the agriculture industry. 


Dr Gillian Young, AFBI grass breeder

Cropvale Corner

cropvaleOur main UK trial site is Cropvale Farm in Worcestershire, a 15 acres site for both amenity and agricultural, first established in 2008. It is one of 21 research and breeding stations throughout the world for the Royal Barenbrug Group. Cropvale farm is still a working farm belongs to the Hutchings family, with Roger Hutchings managing our trials.


Cropvale was first established to screen ryegrass breeding material coming from our UK breeding partner, the Agri-food & Biosciences Institute for Northern Ireland (AFBI), and from our Barenbrug breeding programmes in Holland, France and New Zealand. Cropvale still serves that function today and now we also screen a range of species species such as soft-leaved tall fescue & cocksfoot, timothy and various legumes.


Further to the variety work, we have steadily expanded and now include a range of mixture trials as well as demonstration plots that we can use with visitors really allowing them to get hands on with the crops. Another important part of our work are trials with commercial partners, we are an official disease testing site for the NIAB Recommended Grass and Clover List every year and have also been involved in a DEFRA project looking at potential biological pest control for grass.


Currently on the site there are two years of variety evaluation trials, numerous plots of traditional, novel, and biodiverse mixtures and a new species demonstration. The main sowing time at Cropvale is in the autumn but we will sow several annual, spring sown crops again as soon as conditions are appropriate.


Looking to the future, we are expanding our local trialling within the British Isles and now have two further sites established with Barenbrug UK trials, one in Co. Armagh in Northern Ireland and one in Co. Cork in the Republic of Ireland. In summer 2021, we will establish A Scottish trial site taking us to 4 regional locations all with very varied climatic conditions to give us a wide range of information on our varieties.


As well as official trial sites, our Grass Into Gold initiative, which has been running for 6 years now, will be expanded to give a broader range of on farm information working with farmers who truly value what grass can do to for their farm business regardless of their enterprise.


Find out more here about our dedicated grass trial and research site

Agriculture Barenbrug UK 2021 Product Guide

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Grass, forage & herbs

Discover our range of grass, forage, clover, herb and legume mixtures for the agriculture sector. Our premium agriculture grass seed ranges, contain the latest varieties and innovations from Barenbrug. Click an image to the right

Discover our range of grass, forage, clover, herb and legume mixtures for the agriculture sector. Our premium agriculture grass seed ranges, contain the latest varieties and innovations from Barenbrug. Click an image to the right

Discover our range of grass, forage, clover, herb and legume mixtures for the agriculture sector. Our premium agriculture grass seed ranges, contain the latest varieties and innovations from Barenbrug. Click an image to the right