Same equipment can be used to harvest barley, wheat
By STEVE BROWN
EVERETT, Wash. -- Washington and Oregon farmers west of the Cascade Mountains should consider growing barley, Oregon State University professor Patrick Hayes says.
Hayes compared barley with wheat: similar tonnage per acre, similar price, 20 percent less nitrogen input, 20 percent shorter growth cycle, and it's harvested with the same machinery -- "but be ready for awns," he said.
Awns are the inedible spikelets protruding from the head of the grain. Removing them from the grain requires extra friction.
Hayes said barley is well suited to westside climate.
Winter-hardy varieties tolerate low temperatures and require sufficient cold units and day length to develop. In the past 26 years, he has seen winter injury to barley only once.
"But barley does not like wet feet," he said. "It's just not going to do well in that environment."
Diseases west of the Cascades include stripe rust, but a different species from wheat stripe rust. Finding a variety that is not susceptible is vital, especially for organic growers. Scald is another disease, one that can be addressed with the right variety and good drainage.
Hayes recommended fall-sown barleys, which have better productivity, require less irrigation and add diversity to the cropping system.
For feed, he recommended Alba, a winter six-row barley; for food, Streaker, a hull-less winter six-row whose multi-colors make it attractive to consumers; and for malt, Full Pint, a two-row semi-dwarf still going through commercial malting and distilling trials.
Barley for the brewing market is grown under contract, so malting varieties are specified and must meet strict quality criteria, Hayes said. Malt commands a price premium over food barley, but malt varieties usually yield less.