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Winter barley

Jochum Wiersma, Small grains specialist, Becky Zhong, Research assistant

Winter barley (left) and spring barley (right).
The arctic cold snap of the past two days may have you doubt the data. However, climatologist are sure that Minnesota’s winter are getting milder and wetter while the summers are getting more humid with nighttime lows creeping higher. The latter is especially worrisome for production of high quality malting barley.

Transitioning from a summer annual growth habit where you seed the crop in early spring and harvest the crop the same growing season to a winter annual where you seed the crop the previous fall and harvest it the next summer is a way to better exploit growing conditions that favor cool season annuals like barley and wheat. The winter growth habit allows these cool season crops to mature earlier, thereby escaping the summer heat that affects yield and quality adversely.

While winter wheat is well suited for Minnesota, winter barley is not (yet). The University of Minnesota’s barley breeding program started developing winter barley varieties that are adapted to the northern plains some 5 years ago. Simultaneously, the research group also started to explore best management practices for winter barley, including the optimum planting window for winter barley. For results of this initial work, see Prospects for winter barley in the Upper Midwest.
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  1. Any updates on optimal planting window?

    1. Please see a new publication, Winter barley: An emerging crop (, but keep in mind that winter hardy malting varieties are still being developed and not yet available for Minnesota.


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