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Winter barley

Winter barley (genus Hordeum L.) refers to the winter cereals of group I, is cultivated as a grain forage and groats crop.

Economic importance

Winter barley grain is low in protein and high in starch, which allows it to be used as a raw material for the brewing industry. Winter barley is almost all multilocular.

It is one of the best fodder crops.

In areas with favorable conditions for the cultivation of barley, winter barley have a higher yield than spring barley, which is associated with a better use of moisture in the fall and spring. Thanks to the early harvest, allows the use of stubble crops. 

In crop rotations saturated with winter crops, other winter crops are sown after barley, as there is enough time left after its harvest to carry out half fallow tillage.

Cultivation areas and yields

Winter barley is cultivated in areas with mild winters, as its varieties have less winter hardiness than winter wheat. The main sown areas of winter barley are concentrated in the North Caucasus, Ukraine and Central Asia. In Azerbaijan, in the low-lying coastal zone of Dagestan, in Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Chechnya and Ingushetia the areas sown with winter barley are much higher than spring barley. In Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, winter and spring barley areas are approximately equal. In the USSR, winter barley was sown on 1.5 million hectares in 1980.

In 1997 the area sown in Russia was 490 thousand hectares at a yield of 2.7 t/ha. In 2001-2005 about 600 thousand hectares (spring barley) were sown in Russia. – About 600 thousand hectares (spring barley – 9.6 million hectares). Barley accounted for 23% of all sown areas of cereal crops in Russia, while winter barley accounted for 1.3%. The gross output in 2001-2005 was 2 mln tons with the average yield of 3.4 t/ha. With high farming techniques in the conditions of the North Caucasus, the potential yield is 4-5 t/ha.

Due to the need to increase the production of grain forage crops, sowing of winter barley, as a higher yielding crop compared with spring barley, has expanded significantly to areas with mild winters, such as the south and west of Ukraine and Moldova.

It is now cultivated in many countries around the world with mild winters. In the 1990s the area sown worldwide was 64 million hectares (9% of the total area of grain crops). The gross output of grain is 150 million tonnes, or 7 percent of total grain production. The average yield is 2.3 t/ha.

Winter barley is considerably superior to spring barley in terms of crop yield, and is not inferior to winter wheat in Krasnodar Territory and the Crimea. According to the data of Azerbaijan variety-testing sites, winter barley yielded an average of 3.15 t/ha of grain in 5 years, while spring barley yielded 1.84 t/ha. In Krasnodar Krai, winter barley yielded up to 5-6 t/ha of grain.

Higher yields of winter barley compared with spring barley are explained by the fact that the former, in addition to the fall precipitation, makes fuller use of early spring moisture, it gives a fuller grain before the onset of dry southeasterly winds than spring barley, which matures later. The average winter barley yield over the period 1976-1980 in the USSR was 2.14 t/ha, in 1986-1990 – 3.61 t/ha. – 3.61 t/ha.

Biological features

Winter barley is less winter-hardy compared to winter wheat and rye. Frosts below -12 … -15 °C are dangerous for it. It is more susceptible than winter wheat to unfavorable conditions in early spring. Spring temperature changes are destructive for it. Resistant to heat.

With the onset of warm spring days, winter barley quickly goes into growth. The growing season is 12-16 days shorter than that of spring barley, and 6-10 days shorter than that of winter wheat. Early maturation avoids the effects of high summer temperatures and drought.

The most drought-resistant crop among winter cereals of group I, is also superior to spring barley.

Soil requirements are similar to those of winter wheat.


Vegetation phases:

  • sprouting;
  • tillering;
  • emergence into the tube;
  • earing;
  • flowering;
  • milky ripeness of grain;
  • waxy ripeness of grain;
  • full ripeness of grain.

Crop rotation

Winter barley is sown after different predecessors. The best place in the crop rotation – bare fallow, seeded and green manure fallows. In production conditions it is usually sown after corn, sunflower, sugar beet and leguminous crops. Winter barley gives a good yield after winter wheat following perennial grasses.

It is sown after cotton in cotton-growing regions of Azerbaijan.

Fertilizer system

Winter barley responds well to fertilizer. When sowing, superphosphate (P10) is applied, which contributes to hardening and overwintering of plants. The greatest frost resistance was observed with the introduction of superphosphate and potassium fertilizer at the rate of P40-50K40-50.

In spring, the early feeding of nitrogen fertilizers at a rate of 35-45 kg/ha is carried out on the crops. In the experiments of the Krasnodar Research Institute of Agriculture early fertilization with ammonium nitrate at the rate of N30 increased yield by 0.4 t/ha.

It responds well to organic fertilizers, introduced in the seeded fallow at a rate of 15-20 t/ha.

In the Kuban practiced application of N40-60P80K40-60 under the main treatment and N40-60 top dressing in early spring. The second feeding was carried out according to the results of stem diagnosis in the phase of emergence of a tube.

At present, under the conditions of intensive cultivation technology, the rate of fertilizer application is determined by the planned yield.

Tillage system

Main article: Tilling for winter crops

As in the case of other crops cultivated in the south of Russia, the tillage system for winter barley should be aimed at conservation and accumulation of moisture. Therefore, the surface tillage system and the use of heavy disc harrows and rollers, flat-cut-cultivators, combined aggregates are preferable.

After crops, tillage of winter barley begins with discing, followed by plowing to a full depth of the arable layer with harrowing. If the soil is very cloddy, after plowing additional tillage is carried out immediately to a fine lumpy state with rolling.

Before sowing, cultivation is carried out to the depth of seed embedment. When sowing after well-tilled row crops, which are harvested late, plowing can be replaced by cultivation or discing with simultaneous harrowing. If the field is clogged or the soil is heavily compacted, plowing with simultaneous harrowing is carried out after the tilled crops.


Seed preparation

Seeds are used for sowing sorted and brought to the highest sowing conditions, corresponding to the I and II class of sowing standard. Before sowing, wet or semi-dry dressing against hard and dusty mildew, root rot is carried out.

Treated seeds are recommended to be moistened (10 liters of water per 1 ton of seeds) using film-forming compositions (Na-KMC, 0.2 kg/t).

Timing of sowing

In the steppe regions of the Northern Caucasus, the optimal sowing period for winter barley is from September 1 to 20, in the foothill regions of the Northern Caucasus and the Crimea – from September 15 to October 5, in the south of Ukraine and Moldova – from September 15 to 20, in Transcaucasia and Central Asia – late September – first decade of October.

Due to weak bushiness and poor overwintering, the later sowing dates greatly reduce winter barley yields.

Sowing methods

For barley, as a rule, the usual row, narrow-row and cross-row sowing methods are used. The best results are obtained with narrow-row sowing and a seeding depth of 4 to 6 cm.

Seeding rates are similar to those of winter wheat:

  • in the North Caucasus, in Transcaucasia – 4-4.5 million germinated seeds (160-180 kg);
  • in Central Asia under irrigation – 3-3.5 mln germinating seeds (120-140 kg/ha);
  • 2-2.5 million germinated seeds (80-100 kg/ha) on rainfed land.

If sowing is delayed, the rate is increased. Thickened crops overwinter better.

If the topsoil is very dry, roll it with ring-spiked rollers immediately after sowing. When sowing, it is recommended to make technological tracks.

Crop care

Winter barley overwinters poorly. Snow retention is carried out in crops. It does not tolerate stagnant water; in humid areas, no crops are sown in low places. Excess water must be removed in a timely manner. In southern arid areas melt water retention is carried out.

To destroy the soil crust, remove dead plant parts and create optimal conditions for plant development, harrowing across the rows or diagonally is carried out.

Further care of crops consists in elimination of weeds. The crops are treated in the tillering phase with herbicide 2,4-D amine salt at a dose of 0.6-1 kg/ha a.s.

Retardant treatment is also recommended in the tillering phase to prevent lodging.

Main diseases of winter barley: powdery mildew, brown rust, ear fusarium, root rot. Main pests: beetle, creeping weevil, cereal aphid, striped flea, cereal flies. Taking into account the threshold of harmfulness against diseases, pests and weeds, appropriate approved drugs are used. Sprayers such as ОПШ-15-03, ОПШ-15-01, ОПМ-2001, ОПМ-2000-2 or foreign ones are used for treatment. Working solutions for treatments are prepared by machines, such as “Premix”, СППР-20; АНЖ-12. Consumption rates of the working fluid are taken according to those recommended for the preparation, or at the rate of 200 l/ha during ground spraying, 50 l/ha – during aerial spraying.


Winter barley matures earlier than winter rye and winter wheat. Single-phase and two-phase harvesting methods can be used. If there is a delay in harvesting, when the ear is droopy and becomes brittle, only the single-phase method is used.


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