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Effect of planting density and nitrogen application rate on grain quality and yield of three barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) cultivars planted in the Western Cape Province of South Africa
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Grain yield and its components are very important and complicated in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and are highly influenced by environmental factors and agronomic management practices. For 2018 growing season, a study was designed under rainfed conditions to evaluate the effects of nitrogen (N) fertilizer rate (0, 10, 20, 30 and 40 kg ha-1 of N) and planting density (120, 140, 160, and 180 to 200 seeds m-2) on the agronomic performance of three barley cultivars (Elim, Hessekwa and S16). A randomized complete block design with 3 replications was used. Combined analysis of variance showed significant (p<0.1) differences among cultivars, N rates and planting densities. The main objective of this study was to determine the effects of planting density and different fertilizer application strategies on barley grain yield and quality. The results showed that biggest increases on yield and yield components were observed at 180 seeds m-2 and 80kg ha-1 N rate. Higher N rates generally reduced kernel size. Kernel size was both increased and decreased by increasing planting density as well as N rate. Increasing planting density from 180 to 200 seeds m–2 generally provided slight reductions in grain N concentration and reduced kernel size. The three cultivars expressed a significant effect on kernel plumpness and N content of grain. The most beneficial agronomic practices for malting barley production in Western Cape were application of N fertilizer at optimum rate depending on cultivar, locality and rainfall and planting seeds at a rate of 160-180 seeds m-2 depending on cultivar. A planting density of 160-180 seeds m-2 at a rate of 80 kg N ha-1 is recommended for planting barley under dry land in the Western Cape.