How to grow Barley
  • May 24, 2023
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Barley is a versatile and widely cultivated cereal grain that has been an important staple crop for centuries. It is not only used for brewing beer but also for making various food products, animal feed, and even as a cover crop. If you are interested in growing barley, this guide will provide you with detailed instructions on how to successfully cultivate this crop. From selecting the right variety to preparing the soil, sowing the seeds, and caring for the plants, each step will be covered to ensure a fruitful barley harvest. So let’s dive in and learn how to grow barley!

Selecting the Right Variety

Before you start growing barley, it is crucial to select the appropriate variety based on your specific goals and growing conditions. Consider the following factors when choosing a barley variety:


Different barley varieties have varying tolerance to cold, heat, and drought. Select a variety that is well-suited to the climate of your region.


Determine whether you intend to use barley for malting, animal feed, or as a cover crop. Certain varieties are specifically bred for malting purposes, while others are better suited for animal feed or soil improvement.

Disease resistance

Look for barley varieties that are resistant to common diseases in your area, such as powdery mildew or leaf rust. This can help reduce the need for pesticides.

Consult with local agricultural extension services or seed suppliers to identify suitable barley varieties for your specific needs.

Soil Preparation

Barley thrives in well-drained soils with good fertility. Follow these steps to prepare your soil for barley cultivation:

Soil testing

Conduct a soil test to assess its pH level and nutrient content. Barley typically prefers a slightly acidic to neutral pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. Based on the test results, amend the soil with lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it.

Weed control

Clear the area of weeds and remove any debris or rocks that may hinder seedbed preparation.

Soil fertility

Barley requires adequate nutrients for optimal growth. Add organic matter, such as well-rotted compost or manure, to improve soil structure and nutrient availability. Apply fertilizers based on the soil test recommendations to meet the crop’s nutrient requirements.


Use a tiller or plow to loosen the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. This promotes root development and allows for proper seed germination.

Sowing Barley Seeds

Once the soil is prepared, it’s time to sow the barley seeds. Follow these steps for successful sowing:


Barley is a cool-season crop, so it is best to sow the seeds in early spring or fall, depending on your climate. The soil temperature should be around 50 to 65°F (10 to 18°C) for optimal germination.

Seedbed preparation

Create seedbeds by raking the soil to create a level surface. Remove any clumps or stones that may interfere with seed placement.

Seeding rate

The recommended seeding rate varies depending on the variety and purpose of cultivation. On average, aim for a seeding rate of 90 to 120 pounds per acre. Consult the seed supplier or local agricultural experts for specific recommendations.

Seeding method

Barley seeds can be broadcasted by hand or using a mechanical seeder. If using a seeder, adjust the settings to ensure even seed distribution. Alternatively, you can use a grain drill for precise row seeding.

Seed depth

Barley seeds should be sown at a depth of approximately 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) in the soil. Ensure consistent depth across the field to promote uniform germination.

Row spacing

Barley can be sown in rows or broadcasted. For row planting, maintain a row spacing of 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) to provide enough room for the plants to grow and develop.

Seed treatment

Consider treating the seeds with fungicides or seed treatments to protect them from seed-borne diseases and pests. Follow the instructions provided by the seed supplier for proper seed treatment methods.

Caring for Barley Plants

To ensure healthy growth and maximum yield, it is important to provide proper care for your barley plants. Follow these guidelines:


Barley requires adequate moisture during its growth stages. Water the plants regularly, especially during dry periods. Aim to keep the soil evenly moist, but avoid waterlogging, as excess moisture can lead to diseases.


Apply nitrogen-based fertilizers at specific growth stages to promote vigorous growth. Split the fertilizer application into multiple doses, with the first dose applied at planting and subsequent doses during the tillering and heading stages. Follow the recommended rates provided by soil test results or consult local agricultural experts.

Weed control

Weed competition can severely impact barley yields. Regularly inspect the field and remove weeds manually or use appropriate herbicides. Be cautious when using herbicides, as certain products can damage the barley plants.

Disease and pest management

Monitor your barley crop for signs of diseases and pests such as rust, powdery mildew, aphids, or armyworms. Consult local agricultural extension services for recommended control measures and apply appropriate fungicides or insecticides when necessary.

Crop rotation

Practice crop rotation to minimize disease and pest buildup. Avoid planting barley or other cereal crops in the same field consecutively to break the disease cycle and maintain soil health.

Harvesting and Storage

Determining the right time to harvest barley is crucial to ensure optimal yield and quality. Follow these steps for successful harvesting and storage:

Harvest timing

Harvest barley when the grain reaches the desired moisture content. For malting purposes, harvest when the grain moisture content is around 13 to 14%. For feed barley, a slightly higher moisture content of 15 to 18% may be acceptable. Use a moisture meter to determine the moisture level accurately.

Harvesting methods

Barley can be harvested using a combine harvester or by hand if the scale of cultivation is small. Combine harvesters efficiently remove the grain from the stalks, leaving behind straws that can be used for animal bedding or as organic matter.


If the harvested grain’s moisture content exceeds the desired levels, drying is necessary to prevent spoilage. Use a grain dryer or spread the barley in a thin layer on a clean, dry surface in a well-ventilated area until the moisture content reaches the desired level.


Store the dried barley grain in clean, moisture-proof containers such as silos, bins, or sealed bags. Maintain appropriate storage conditions to prevent moisture absorption and minimize the risk of pest infestation. Regularly monitor the stored barley for signs of spoilage or pests.


Growing barley can be a rewarding endeavor, whether you intend to use it for malting, animal feed, or as a cover crop. By selecting the right variety, preparing the soil adequately, sowing the seeds correctly, and providing proper care throughout the growing season, you can achieve a successful barley harvest.

Remember to monitor for diseases, pests, and weed competition while practicing proper crop rotation and storage techniques. With patience and attention to detail, you can enjoy the satisfaction of growing your own barley and reaping its benefits

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