Barley is a member of the grass family, a major cereal grown in temperate climates globally. It is a self-pollinating diploid species. Barley farming is well appreciated because the produce is used as animal fodder, a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages as well as a component of various healthy foods for human consumption. Barley is rich in many nutrients and packs some impressive health benefits ranging from improved digestion, weight loss, and lower cholesterol levels.

Planting

Barley farming is a process of balance. The planting equipment used for wheat is suitable for barley. The seeds must not be planted too deep as this can slow down seedling emergence. Planting density can range from 65kg/ha to 100kg/ha depending on the state of the seedbed, planting date, irrigation method and the planter used. Fertilizer ratio should be 175kg per acre. The germination capacity of seeds can vary from year to year so you will have to adjust seeding density accordingly.

Early planting will generally produce higher yields, larger grain size and lower protein levels making it more likely to achieve malt quality. When one is engaged in barley farming, they have to note that sowing at the right time is critical for optimizing grain yield and can also influence grain quality. Farmers end up settling for stock feed because it is easier to produce.

Malting

Malting is the process where you start the germination of barley seeds just long enough to turn starches into sugars therefore germination control is crucial. Malting barley is a high-risk crop because it has to meet required quality factors and can be severely impacted by disease, stress and the weather.

Specific varieties are used when producing malt. Sometimes, malt is produced by companies that specialise in barley farming. Most of it is used for brewing beer and some beer companies have developed integrated production systems in which they contract with farmers to produce specific barley varieties. Contract production offers malting companies a secure supply of high-quality barley and specific varieties.

Planning

When one is venturing into barley farming, there are key areas that demand attention and these include getting the institution right, planning a fungicide strategy, assessing fertilizer requirements, keeping on top of blackgrass and choosing the right market for specific varieties.

The avenue to quality is to produce barley that is well adapted to regions, a farmer should choose the ones that will mature well without lodging.

Maintenance

Barley is grown like wheat although it ripens earlier, some varieties are spring planted and some are planted in fall and because of this, barley fits well into a double cropping scheme and a variety of crop rotations.

Barley does not require too much watering as that can lead to decomposition. Weeds can be kept out by weeding by hand for small crops and an application for herbicides may be necessary for a large crop to keep out the weeds.

Grain Varieties

There are about twenty verified grain varieties. The traditionally grown barley varieties are tall and weak stemmed and they normally lodge even under fairly low soil fertility conditions. Variety differences mainly show through grain colour, sowing conditions, strengths and vulnerabilities as well as yield potential and individuals in barley farming ought to always keep this in mind.

Barley comes in two types distinguished by the quantity of rows of flowers on its flower spike. Six row barley has its spike notched on opposite sides with three spikes on each notch and each containing a small individual flower that develops to a kernel. Two row barley has central florets that produce kernels and lateral florets that are normally sterile. Six row barley has a higher protein content and is more suited for animal feed, two row barley has a higher sugar content and is therefore more commonly used for malt production.

All varieties of barley are out crossing plants that are wind pollinated and will cross readily with one another and this is how the different varieties came about.

Plant Nutrition

Protein content is partly varietal and partly regional. Barley farming in humid areas produces a higher protein percentage.

The nutrient requirements vary depending on the crop growth stage. Nitrogen is needed for early rapid growth, leaf development and size, higher yield through green leaf duration, grain size and protein levels. Phosphate is necessary for supplying energy for early growth and development especially root mass, and dry matter remobilization for yield improvement. Zinc and potassium are for protein synthesis and water regulation, respectively.

Harvesting Barley

When it comes to barley farming, how the farmer manages the barley grain at harvest is critical as viability of the grain must be maintained. Factors like skinning the grain due to over threshing, harvesting grains with a high moisture content and storing without aeration or drying, all contribute to the reduction in quality of barley for use in the malting or brewing industry and in the feeding industry.

The simplest and most common harvesting method for barley is to wait until the grain is ready and dried to a moisture content of less than 12%. It is encouraged that once the crop is ripe, farmers harvest as soon as possible to reduce the potential losses from wind damage or weathering.

When barley farming. you know your barley has reached full harvest when it is golden in colour and brittle and how you store it depends on the intended use. Barley is cut, bundled and dried. It can be stored in a bundle and fed to stock without threshing.

The European union is the biggest barley producer, and it is the fourth largest grain crop globally with less production costs and high returns.

Benefits

Produce from barley farming is used for livestock feed, human food and malt production. Each of these uses is best met with specific barley varieties. About three quarters of produce is used for food or malt purposes and the rest goes to animal feed. Some barley varieties are better suited for feed and others for malting purposes. High quality feed barley contains high protein levels while low protein levels and plumbness are necessary for malting purposes. Some varieties can be used for either purpose and in many cases, their use depends on agronomic situations.

This crop is nutritious and easy to cultivate, a common grain with loads of health benefits and a variety of purposes. It requires little time and barley farming is quite cheap.

Barley farming produce is responsible for a host of health benefits such as improving digestion, losing weight, and improving heart health. Barley lacks some of the other nutrients present in corn but it has higher protein contents and this reduces the need for protein supplements in feed rations.

The soft straw is used mostly as bedding and as feed, providing the bulk roughage.

Barley is grown for both cultural and economic reasons and produces a high yield per acre, it is early and often escapes drought and usually mature before rust becomes dangerous.

Challenges

There may be development of pesticide resistance, weeds and erratic weather patterns. Barley farming also calls for monitoring the plants because diseases like net blotch, scald, barley yellow dwarf virus and leaf rust are also a huge problem. Pests that mostly attack the plants are Russian wheat aphid.