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Barley acreage bounces back, resistance sought


Growers look to build momentum for rotation crop


By MATTHEW WEAVER


Capital Press


PULLMAN, Wash. -- Barley acreage is up 35 percent this year, a Washington State University scientist said.


WSU interim barley breeder Kevin Murphy said about 85,000 acres of barley was grown in Washington state last year, and 115,000 acres are projected to be harvested this year.


Ten years ago, about 500,000 acres were grown in the state.


"So we're on the upswing and we want to capture that momentum," Murphy said.


Crop consultant Jerry Zahl hopes to see barley find a greater place in Pacific Northwest rotations. He's heard that the inclusion of barley in a three-year rotation will boost yields for peas and wheat, and looks forward to trials to test that theory.


A problem with barley has been its lack of resistance to some herbicides, they said. Grass weed herbicides used on winter wheat carry barley plant-back restrictions.


"That, in my mind, is the biggest hurdle we have to get over," said Steve Claassen, a member of the Washington Grain Commission. "It sounds like we're on the cusp."


Recently retired WSU barley breeder Steve Ullrich said breeders are selecting for resistance to herbicides. They are also working to select for resistance to the disease rhizoctonia, a fungus that affects the root system, Ullrich said.



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