Barley Production and Management


Manitoba's unique climate and central location make it one of the most productive barley-growing areas in the world. The long warm summer days characteristic of the Canadian prairies, our clean environment and the large fertile land base provide excellent growing conditions for some of the world's highest quality barley.

Our cold winter months also greatly reduce our exposure to some of the crop diseases more commonly found in warmer climates. Manitoba's location, in the heart of North America, is close to major processors in Canada and the United States and, being directly located on north-south and east-west shipping routes, Manitoba receives superior service by road, air and rail. Thus, our central location coupled with its unique climate results in accessible, high quality barley.

Field Selection

Select fields with good drainage, sandy loam to heavy clay soil textures.

For malting, seed or food uses, avoid fields where volunteers of other varieties of barley, other cereals and large oilseeds such as sunflowers may be a problem. Avoid fields that had cereal crops in the previous year to reduce disease pressure and optimize yields.

Variety Information

Performance Testing 

Variety Performance, Acreage, Seeding Date And Crop Rotation Effects On Yield

Seeding Barley


Loose or surface-borne smuts (covered and false loose smut) that attack barley can be controlled by fungicide seed treatment. Leaf spot diseases of barley overwinter on barley straw, stubble and seed. Treat seed from infected fields to reduce seedling infection.


May 1 to May 31. On average, the best quality and the highest yields are obtained from barley that is sown early.


1.25 to 2.25 bu/acre to achieve a plant population of 22-25 plants/ft2.

Circumstances requiring heavier seeding rates include large seed size, low germination, late seeding, abundant moisture, deep seeding, rough seed bed and high weed pressure.

Seeding Depth

1.5 to 2 inches. Deeper seeding results in weaker plants, reduced emergence, greater susceptibility to root rot and decreased yield.

Fertilizer Requirements For Barley


For specific recommendations, have your soil tested. If soil analyses are not available, a general recommendation is as follows:

Nitrogen (N): Apply 0-30 lb/acre N following fallow or legume breaking, 30-55 lb/acre N following grass and grass-legume breaking and 55-90 lb/acre N following stubble. The primary nitrogen deficiency symptom is leaf yellowing starting with the older leaves. If nitrogen deficiencies are visible in the field, loss in yield potential has already occurred.
Phosphate (P2O5): Apply phosphate rates at 30-40 lb/acre.
Potassium (K2O): On sandy-textured or organic soils, apply potassium rates of 15-30 lb/acre.
Sulphur (S): Low sulphur levels can occur in any Manitoba soils. When required, apply 15 lb/acre of sulphate sulphur. The primary sulphur deficiency symptom is leaf yellowing, starting with the newest leaves.

Special Considerations

For a recommended malting barley variety to be acceptable for a malting grade, the grain should contain 10.5 to 13 per cent protein. Protein levels in barley are determined by the amount of available nitrogen plus growing season moisture and temperature conditions. High rates of nitrogen and/or limited growing-season moisture may result in protein content above the acceptable levels.

Weed Control

Barley is a competitive crop that has the ability to choke out many weeds. Depending on the relative time of emergence and the weed density, herbicides may not be necessary, which improves net returns.

Refer to the Guide to Field Crop Protection.


Grasshoppers, aphids, cutworms, wireworms and armyworms can damage barley. A dual-purpose seed treatment that includes an insecticide should be used if wireworms are expected to be a problem.

Refer to the Guide to Field Crop Protection.

Diseases Affecting Barley

Barley fields should be monitored for leaf diseases on a regular basis during the growing season. Identifying the disease and, if control is warranted, apply a registered fungicide to minimize yield loss. Timing of the fungicide application is critical, so read and follow label directions carefully.

Net blotch and scald are the most common foliar diseases attacking most varieties of barley. Fields where these or other troublesome barley diseases are found should not be planted back to barley the next year because of an increased risk of a serious yield loss and reduced kernel plumpness.

All forms of smuts can be controlled with the appropriate seed treatment.

A new race of stem rust, which attacks all of our previously resistant varieties, has appeared in the eastern Prairie and the northern great plains. Early sowing is the only practical measure that can be taken at this time to reduce the risk of yield loss from this disease.

If ergot has been a problem, rotate with a non-susceptible crop for one year to reduce disease incidence. Cultivate fields after harvest to bury ergot bodies to a depth of at least two inches. Mow grass headlands and roadsides before heading to reduce ergot spread. If the seed source is known to contain ergot bodies, storage for more than one year reduces the viability to almost zero. Levels of ergot bodies in the harvested grain above 0.1 percent may be toxic in livestock feed.

Refer to the Guide to Field Crop Protection.

Harvesting Barley


Swath when the heads have lost their green colour and have a moisture content below 30 percent. At 30 percent the barley kernel is firm but can be dented with your thumbnail.


Hulled Barley

To minimize cracking and breakage, slow the cylinder speed, increase the concave clearance and maintain low volume in the return. For malting barley, check the sample for the presence of a bit of awn on the kernels to signal that the combine is doing a proper job of threshing. Awns of 1/8 to 1/4 inch left on the kernels are desired.


Combining can begin at 18 percent to 20 percent if the grain is to be dried. Higher kernel moisture content may lead to storage problems. For malting barley, combining and handling below 13.5 percent may cause peeling. Natural air drying systems can be used to allow harvesting by straight combining or picking up swaths to begin at 16 percent moisture. Threshing malting or seed barley at a moisture content greater than 16 percent, then aerating, has led to disappointing results due to germination loss during storage.

Hulless Barley

For hulless barley, examine the threshed grain for cracking or the presence of adhering hulls above the grading limits (5 percent limit for human consumption, 15 percent limit for feed). A dehulling process may be required to reduce the percentage of hulls adhering to meet grade requirements.

Hulless barley should not be combined above 13.5 percent kernel moisture as it will be difficult to remove the hulls.


Malting barley at 13.5 percent moisture is desirable. Over 14.0 percent moisture does not store well and the quality and germination capacity may deteriorate. Ideal storage conditions can be maintained by means of natural aeration or frequent turning of the grain in the bin.

Feed barley should be stored at 14.5 percent or less kernel moisture.   

For further information, please contact your nearest Manitoba Agriculture office.