ENSURING THAT Scottish cereals remain 'the supply of choice' for whisky and gin makers will be among the topics of discussion at a major crop trials event planned for the end of this month.

Organised under the Scottish Government’s Farm Advisory Service programme, the event is open to farmers and industry representatives and will be delivered by SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College, at its trial site at Cauldsheil, East Lothian, featuring more than 2000 plots grown to provide information for the regional list varieties of wheat and barley, as well as research trials on nitrogen use efficiency, fungicide performance, novel seed treatments and cover crop demonstration plots.

Event organiser Jonathan Black said: “Securing the quality requirements for our home markets for malt, distilling and milling will be highlighted at this year’s event. Scotch whisky and, increasingly, gin are both great global success stories and they are here on our doorstep. Making sure that Scottish cereals remain the supply of choice for these growing markets is a priority.

“With more spring barley being grown elsewhere in the UK to meet greening requirements and control troublesome grass weeds, Scottish malting barley is not always the buyer’s only option," said Mr Black. "The same goes for soft wheat for distilling, so growers need to ensure their variety choice meets the requirements of these markets.”

James Brosnan from the Scotland Whisky Research Institute will provide an industry view of the technical requirements for cereals in the distilling process, while Julian Bell, senior rural business consultant at SAC Consulting, will highlight how the expected tightening of global and UK grain stocks could affect local grain markets, and discuss opportunities for farmers to improve the resilience of their arable businesses.

Mr Bell said: “Rising grain prices are welcome, but will need to be maximised given concern over cereal yield potential and higher costs.”

Head of SRUC Crop and Soil Systems Professor Fiona Burnett added: “With growers now making decisions on which varieties they sow this autumn, it is important they have the latest information to grow the right varieties for their customers, reduce disease risk and use an integrated pest management approach to build resilience into their crop and business performance for the year ahead.

“In 2017, we saw a significant shift in varietal resistance to yellow rust and in fungicide resistance to Ramularia in barley, and this year we are seeing changes in mildew levels in wheat varieties. Growers are encouraged to take advantage of the ‘pop-up’ crop clinic and bring plant samples for expert diagnosis. For biosecurity reasons, double bag samples and remove any soil – or photograph the problem.’’

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk