Barley Planting Opportunities

Posted: September 1, 2015

With the early maturation of some corn and soybean crops, there could be some opportunities for planting barley this fall. Barley is often discounted in the marketplace, though, and this has limited its potential as a crop. Figuring out how to maximize the value of the crop is a key consideration to improve profitability.

For barley harvested as grain, one approach has been to use the crop as a supplement or alternative to feeding corn. This can reduce the need for using corn stored into the summer that is being used for beef or dairy rations. Straw prices are generally good in our state and these can add to returns. Then these fields can be double cropped with soybeans or forage for additional income.

An alternative approach is to grow a hulless barley. These can be used in poultry rations for supplemental energy and protein. Cotner’s Farms in Danville has been contracting hulless barley based on the corn price and this helps to avoid depressed prices at harvest that sometimes can occur. Last year the midsummer rally in corn prices provided a boost in barley prices for some. New varieties like Dan and Amaze10 have improved yields. Virginia Tech has found hulless barley to be more responsive to increased seeding rates up to 2.0 million seeds/acre or about 25 seeds per foot of row.

Another tactic is growing barley for silage harvest at the soft dough stage. Most folks use a taller beardless line and get pretty good yields. This could be an alternative if corn silage inventories are anticipated to be short and provide an opportunity for an early double crop planting. Yields of 5 tons/acre of dry matter are not uncommon. Lodging can be an issue, though, since some of these lines are taller than others. In a trial we conducted last year, we used the growth regulator Palisade on the variety Valor; we shortened the crop by 3 inches and eliminated lodging, without impacting yield.

A relatively new and limited option is to grow malting barley. For this you need to work closely with a malt house to grow a specific variety for malting. Then the crop should be managed for high grain quality and low protein in the grain. A spring topdress in the 50-60 lb/acre range worked well for us last year. It kept the crop standing and protein levels were acceptable. A fungicide program to limit Fusarium head blight should also be considered. Harvesting on a timely basis is critical as some lines lack the resistance to sprouting that is present in our feed barleys.

Contact Information

Gregory W. Roth
  • Professor of Agronomy
Phone: 814-863-1018