BARLEY (Hordeum vulgare)
Requires six hours or more
of strong, direct sun per day.
This grain was one of the first cereals to be cultivated by man, and is grown over a large extent of the world. There are varieties of barley that will even grow in the Arctic Circle.
As a feed for livestock, barley compares favorably with corn, and in regions where corn is unadapted, barley is successfully used for fattening cattle and swine. On the average, barley contains 3 percent more protein than corn and can be substituted for corn in feed mixes. Some people prefer the taste of barley-fed beef.
Varieties of barley
There are two botanically distinct types of barley: six-row and two-row. The six-row varieties are more common and are divided into three families:
Six row barley
Malting Barley, grown in the upper Midwest, tall, bearded and spring planted; the Coast Group, grown in California and Arizona as a fall crop; and the Tennessee Winter Group, grown east of the Mississippi as livestock feed.
Two row barley
The Two-Row barleys are grown in the Pacific Northwest and on the northern Great Plains, spring planted, and used for feed and for malting.
Barley may have bearded heads or be beardless. Bearded barley has a slender bristle about three inches long, called an "awn," attached to each seed. Beardless varieties are generally preferred for forage, but the bearded varieties have proven resistant to deer in Pennsylvania.
Because of the different purposes of the grain, there are many varieties of barley available and new ones are being constantly developed. Most new varieties are bred to be stiffer strawed to prevent lodging. There are varieties adapted to every area.
Grow and plant barley as you would wheat. Some varieties are spring planted and some are fall planted. Barley ripens sooner than wheat; spring-planted barley ripens in 60 to 70 days, fall-planted barley about 60 days after spring growth begins.
Barley thus fits well into a double-cropping scheme and a variety of crop rotations and as a
cover crop. Be careful when planting barley with a drill because bearded varieties may cause planting tubes to clog.
Organic methods of barley planting
To plant barley follow the rules of good soil preparation when preparing a seedbed, then rake, disk or harrow the soil. Broadcast the seeds and lightly rake the surface. That's all you have to do until harvest time. On a small plot, you can broadcast the seed by hand, but larger plots can be planted more efficiently if some sort of mechanical device is used.
Ripe barley is harvested the same as wheat: cut, bundled and shocked to dry. Wear a shirt when harvesting barley as the awns can irritate your skin. Barley may be stored in the bundle and fed to stock without threshing.
Barley diseases and pests
Yellow dwarf virus, an aphid-transmitted virus, attacks barley at the seedling stage, and damages older grain, but is not very common.
Fungus diseases of barley
Fungus diseases do bother barley, especially in humid parts of the South. Resistant varieties have been developed, so the best thing to do is to check out which varieties are more resistant to the diseases encountered in your area.
Insect pests that attack barley
Greenbugs and corn leaf aphids both attack barley, but infestations are usually not severe. Even commercial growers do not use chemicals, but rely instead on natural predators for organic insect control.
Barley can be stored and used in a bundle for stock feed. Animals like it less than wheat because of the hulls, and will consume more if the barley is ground. You can feed sprouted barley to chickens with good results. The grain can be easily sprouted if the head-end of the whole bundle is soaked in water until the grains sprout. Allow about five days at 60░F. (15.56'C.).
You will soon learn how fast the barley sprouts and how many bundles you'll have to keep soaking in order to have a constant supply of the sprouted grain. The chickens will eat the sprouts right out of the heads, and the straw will provide good bedding.
Sprouted barley can also be used to make malt for brewing beer.
Mature barley should be hulled for table use. The blender will do a fair job of hulling if you winnow or sift the hulls out, although you won't get all of them.
Another method is to take the screen out of a hammer mill and slow the RPM'S to half grinding speed. In any case, roasting the grain makes hulling easier. Hulled barley can be stored just as you would wheat.
Moon Phase Gardening