Vegetative Growth
Flowering Plant



(Hordeum vulgare)

Barely is a member of the grass family, it is grown as a cereal grain crop throughout the UK and worldwide. If the grain reaches the correct quality it may be used in the brewing process, alternatively it can be used for animal feed. Barley straw is also a useful commodity for livestock fodder.


Chiefly the grain is used for human consumption, brewing or livestock feed. The grains may also provide food for farmland birds in sown winter bird food mixtures.


This is an annual crop.


It has reasonable drought tolerance and develops multiple ground covering tillers. Its grains are high protein, with the straw a useful commodity product. Plant breeding over many years has produced both spring and autumn planted varieties, spring varieties do not need to go through the vernalisation process (a cold period) to mature.

Frost Tolerance

Reasonable frost tolerance in the UK, but less reliable than some cereals like wheat in exposed areas.

Sowing Rate Advice

75kg per acre / 187.5kg per ha.

The rates above are for a pure stand. Larger seeds like cereals require a robust sowing rate to give good ground cover.

Ideal Sowing Time

Spring or autumn sown varieties are available. Spring sown varieties may be planted from January -April, while autumn varieties are planted from the end of September to early November.


Barley can be established with a cereal drill, or broadcast and harrowed in well, as it normally requires some depth of sowing. It can help supress weeds due to its many tillers on each plant.

Distinguishing characteristics


The seed is an oblong shape, similar to a rugby ball, with two distinct blunt tips. It is a beige to golden yellow colour, with a papery texture. It is approximately 7 - 8mm in length.


The barley seedling produces a coleoptile, before going on to produce the first true leaf. The seedling is normally pale green in colour, becoming darker as the plant matures. The first true leaves have the beginning of the characteristic clockwise twist.

Vegetative State

Flowering Plant

Flowering Plant
Normally a glossy to deep green in colour, barley produces many tillers as it establishes. The leaf blades twist clockwise. Barley has obvious, large auricles which clasp the stem at the base of the leaf. Medium length ligule. The seed head or ear has notably long awns and leans to one side. It grows from a tuft with a shallow to medium root and no rhizomes.

Additional Info

Average seeds per kg - 25 000.

Works well with

If sown as part of an over winter bird food mixture, it can be combined with other cereals like triticale or wheat, or seed bearing brassicas like mustard and radish.