In winter barley, lodging, brackling and necking (ear loss) occurs, to a greater or lesser extent each year.
Lodging is often caused by high winds and made worst by wet conditions. It either happens quickly or insidiously over a period of time and often with the help of crows and pigeons! The earlier it occurs the greater the potential yield loss.
To reduce yield losses associated with this it is best to start with the AHDB variety list. This indicates the straw length and provides a lodging score. However, there is more. Hidden away in the data tables for harvest yield an empirical measurement of brackling and ear loss may also be found.
Husbandry also plays its part with lodging risk. Too much or incorrectly timed nitrogen applications whether organic or inorganic increase the risk of lodging by increasing the green leaf area to beyond the optimum, this predisposes the crop to greater risk.
The use of plant growth regulators, especially those applied at flag leaf reduces straw length and mitigate against the effects of brackling and ear loss. Just recently there has been renewed marketing for the benefits of fungicide actives which claim similar effect to those of later applied growth regulators.
These photos show winter barley crops which have been growth regulated. The last one, taken in a gateway; the spray boom did not quite catch all the crop and hence we see the difference in straw length between treated and untreated.