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Hulless Barley Prospects, Grain Crop Management

Greg Roth
Professor of Agronomy

Hulless barley can be a good supplement to layer rations and offer producers a premium to attract production. Twenty seven commercial and experimental hulless lines in Union County were evaluated.

We continue to work with hulless barley as a potential winter crop. Last year we partnered with Virginia Tech and Cotner Farms in Danville to evaluate 27 commercial and experimental hulless lines in Union County. We had a good trial and yields averaged 4239 lb/ac. Hulless barley is sold on a 56 lb basis so that translates into a yield of 75.7 bu/ac. Two of the top lines were Amaze 10, a new Virginia Tech variety and Dan.

Cotner’s have found that hulless barley can be a good supplement to layer rations and offer producers a premium to attract production. The current price is 90% of the local cash corn price, with opportunities for forward contracting. This helps local producers diversify their crop rotation and provide more opportunities for double cropping where double cropping behind wheat is marginal or risky.

I had the opportunity to meet with several top hulless barely growers last week to share ideas on production tactics. Most are managing hulless barley similar to wheat, with slightly earlier planting and a higher seeding rate of about 1.9 million seeds per acre. Timely planting, fall P and K applications, adequate N in the spring followed by a fungicide as the head emerges from the boot are all part of their management. Most are also moving their soybean or corn maturity a bit earlier to facilitate a September or early October harvest.

Several growers also averaged about 80 bushels per acre this year. Some reported late planted fields winterkilled due to the unusually cold winter and some of these were rotated to corn. We looked at profitability of various crops in 2014 following soybeans using the new online Penn State budgets and found that one of the best options was a small grain/double crop soybean option. The hulless barley had a good fit where wheat bean yields were low compared to barley beans. So it appears that despite declining corn prices, there are still opportunities for profitable barley production in the state.

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