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Winter Barley is Making a Comeback in Ontario!

While not a “new” crop to Ontario, winter barley is slowly making a come back!  Known for its early maturity compared to winter wheat, this crop provides an opportunity to double crop soybeans for those in longer season areas, provides coverage of the soil during winter months, is a great feed source for livestock rations and straw, helps spread the workload and provides a great opportunity for manure management and cover crops. If grown to spec, winter barley can also be used for malt.
 
Winter barley has had its challenges including poor winter survival and a lack of new variety development. Recent interest in this winter crop however, could be bringing new genetics to Ontario making it a much more viable option for Ontario cereal growers. While the introduction of new varieties is still a year or so away, there is a lot of excitement out there so here are a few things to consider if you are interested in seeding this crop on your farm.
 
When should winter barley be seeded?
 
While we do our best to seed winter wheat early for improved winter survival, this could not be more important with winter barley. Winter barley should be seeded at least 7-10 days prior to the optimum winter wheat seeding date for your region (Figure 1). Given the need to plant early, winter barley fits well into a rotation after edible beans, canola, peas, or early maturing soybean varieties. Winter barley is not recommended for northern Ontario due to winter survival challenges. Early planting can increase the risk of Barley Yellow Dwarf infection, which is vectored by aphids, so a seed treatment to protect against aphids may be necessary.
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