Growing conditions in 2020-21 were generally better than in 2019-20. Autumn drilling conditions were kinder, though winter was very wet and early spring cold and dry, with frosts occurring throughout the long spring sowing period. Late spring was cold and wet with summer being generally cool and dull. Such conditions resulted in UK yields being average, or just below. By contrast, better yields in the north were associated with warmer summer conditions. The UK harvest progressed well with help from late summer warmth and sunshine, though some coastal areas were affected by rain showers.
Total UK barley production was 7.1 million tonnes in 2021 a decrease of 12% from 2020 (8.1 million tonnes). This reduced production was due mainly to a 30% decrease in the spring barley area, from 1.1 million ha in 2020 to 745,000 ha in 2021. Winter barley production in 2021 was 2.76 million tonnes, from an area of 404,000 ha, and a modest yield of 6.8 t/ha. Spring barley production was 4.35 million tonnes, with area of 745,000 ha and a near average yield of 5.8 t/ha.
Most malting barley crops reached specification as below:
• Specific weight – Winter barley averaged 69kg/hl; typically in region of 68-72kg/hl throughout harvest period and Spring barley typically 65-69kg/hl; averaging 67kg/hl over the same
• Grain Nitrogen (malting varieties) – Winter barley average 1.55%; ranged between 1.45-1.65% throughout the season. Spring typically between 1.35-1.60% averaging 1.50%.
Winter barley retention levels were below average due to poor weather during June/July.
• Screenings – Winter barley typically in 10-15% range. Spring barley typically in 5-7% range. Occasional reports of Winter barley retentions as low as sub 55% from heavier land samples that suffered due to water stress after the wet cool June/early July period.
• Moisture – Winter barley averaged 15%; range between 13-17%. Spring barley ranged between 14-19%, with most crops coming in around 16% over harvest period which is high for English intakes & low for Scottish intakes.
• Germination – Winter barley typically 94-98%, Spring barley typically 96-98%. Occasional reports of lower germination levels on September harvested English barley.
The barley growing areas of the UK are largely on the east of the country, with particular concentrations in East Anglia, Yorkshire and the east of Scotland. These easterly areas have soils and climate suited for producing excellent quality malting barleys.