Winter Barley Production and Research in 2008


W.S. Brooks, M.E. Vaughn, C.A. Griffey, W.E Thomason, J. E. Seago, and E.G. Hokanson



Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Blacksburg, VA 24060, U.S.A.



Growing Conditions.  Fall of 2007 presented challenging planting conditions for many growers due to dry soil conditions with over half the state reported to be very short of soil moisture.  Growers needing to perform primary tillage waited for rain while some small grain was planted into these dry seedbeds.  Rains in late October improved conditions dramatically and by the end of the first week of November, wheat planting reached 53 percent of intended acres, which is the same as the five year average.  Early winter was relatively dry and while there were still concerns over subsoil moisture, most of the small grain crop was rated good or better.  Warm and favorable conditions in April resulted in wheat heading approximately 5 days earlier than the long term average.  However, generally cool conditions in May resulted in longer grain fill and harvest that was on time.  These cool conditions during grain fill helped produce plump kernel and generally good yields across the Commonwealth. 


Diseases.  Disease severity was rated on a 0 to 9 scale with 0 being no disease present and 9 being the leaf nearly covered.  Like the previous year the two most widespread diseases were leaf rust (Puccinia hordei) and net blotch (Pyrenophora teres).  In the hulless test leaf rust ranged from 1-7 with an overall average of 4 and in the hulled test ranged from 1-6 an overall average of 3.  Net blotch ranged from 2-7 in the hulless test with an overall average of 5 and in the hulled test net blotch ranged from 2-6 with an overall average of 3.  Powdery Mildew (Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei) was seen in the hulless test and ranged from 0-7 with an overall of 3, but only a few entries in the hulled test showed signs of powdery mildew. 


Production.   According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistical Service in 2008 Virginia producers planted on 63,000 acres (25515 ha), up 15,000 acres (6,075 ha) from 2007.  The estimated area harvested was 36,000 acres (14580 ha), an increase of 6,000 acres (2,430 ha) over the previous year.   2008 saw a 20% increase in yield and went from 71 bu/ac (3,816 kg/ha) in 2007 to 85 bu/ac (4,569 kg/ha).  Barley production was estimated to be 3.6 million bushels.


State Variety Tests.   In 2008 there were 64 entries grown at six locations across the state of Virginia. 

In the hulless test there were 32 entries, three of which were released cultivars.  Average yields ranged from 58 bu/ac (3,118 kg/ha) to 91 bu/ac (4,892 kg/ha) with an overall average of 75 bu/ac (4,032 kg/ha).  Eve was the highest yielding hulless cultivar with an average of 76 bu/ac (4,085 kg/ha).  With an average of 91 bu/ac (4,892 kg/ha) the experimental line, VA06H-25 had the highest yield in the hulless test.  The test weights ranged from 53.1 lb/bu (684 kg/m3) to 60.1 lb/bu (773 kg/m3) with an overall average of 57.6 lb/bu (741 kg/m3).  In the hulled test there were 32 entries, six of which were released cultivars.  Average yield ranged from 79 bu/ac (4,247 kg/ha) to 104 bu/ac (5,590 kg/ha) with an overall average of 95 bu/ac (5,106 kg/ha).  Callao was the highest yielding hulled cultivar, averaging 101 bu/ac (5,429 kg/ha).  The highest yielding hulled line was the experimental line VA06B-48 with an average of 104 bu/ac (5,590 kg/ha).  Test weights ranged from 43.6 lb/bu (562 kg/m3) to 47.1 lb/bu (606 kg/m3) and an overall average of 45.9 lb/bu (591 kg/m3).


Barley Research and Outlook for 2009. 

Since 2003, two hulled (Thoroughbred and Price) and two hulless (Doyce and Eve) winter barley varieties have been released from the Virginia Tech barley breeding program. Significant progress continues to be made in the development of high value winter barley lines. We have developed elite barley lines having potential for use in multiple end-use markets. However, the yield advantage of the hulled cultivars over our currently available hulless cultivars has hindered adoption and production of hulless barley in the mid-Atlantic region. Therefore, our current focus is on the development of novel germplasm resources that will provide a better understanding of the genetic basis of yield potential in both hulless and hulled barley lines. Improving the yield potential of hulless barley, with its superior grain composition and nutritional quality, will have several practical benefit to producers and end users.

Meanwhile, we are pleased to report the release of ‘Dan’ winter hulless barley (tested as VA03H-61) as the third winter hulless barley developed by the Virginia Tech barley breeding program. Dan hulless barley was named in recognition of Dr. Dan E. Brann Professor Emeritus and former grain specialist at Virginia Tech. Dr. Brann’s enthusiasm, insight, and support of barley production, improvement, and expanded utilization in both traditional and new markets, continues to contribute to barley’s success in the Eastern United States. DAN is a short stature, full season, long awned, six-row winter hulless barley having good winter hardiness, straw strength, and very high test weight and grain starch concentration.  Average grain yield of Dan is excellent, compare to winter hulless cultivars Doyce and Eve. In Virginia, average grain yield of Dan over three years (2006-2008) was 323-376 kg/ha-1 higher than those of Eve and Doyce. Average volume weight of Dan which was 77 kg/hL-1 also was significantly higher than those of Eve and Doyce. In the Uniform barley yield nurseries conducted in 2007-2008 in 4-5 states, Dan ranked 1st in both grain yield and volume weight among hulless entries. In these nurseries average volume weight of Dan exceeded those of Doyce and Eve. Based on grain compositional analyses conducted by the USDA-ARS lab in Pennsylvania, average starch concentration of Dan (66%) was 4% higher than Doyce, 6% higher than Eve and 5% higher than the hulled cultivar Thoroughbred.

This season (2008-2009), we will advance over 600 barley populations and evaluate over 400 pure lines in yield tests and select pure lines among nearly 12,000 headrows. Fifty-two elite barley lines are being evaluated in state variety trials at five locations in Virginia and at 1-2 locations in other cooperating states. An additional 100 advanced hulless barley lines are being evaluated in five states (Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia).

During the past three years (2006-2008), our program continues to collaborate with other barley breeding programs around the country via implementation of the USDA-CSREES Barley Coordinated Agricultural Project (Barley CAP) grant. This cooperative project involving 10 barley breeding programs around the country is evaluating, genetically characterizing and mapping over 40 targeted traits in barley breeding lines. This collaboration allows us to send 96 of our advance barley lines to be evaluated with barley lines from 9 other breeding programs for DNA markers located throughout the genome and also these lines will be evaluated in field tests for important traits of interest. The combined efforts of this project will afford barley breeders with new opportunities to gather and share valuable information and resources, such as germplasm, mapping technology, and genetic markers for a vast number of traits including yield.  The Virginia Tech barley breeding program is the only program in the eastern U.S. collaborating in this research.  The marker data and field data for barley lines from all breeding programs will be analyzed together using association mapping, which will allow for the identification of specific chromosomes or chromosome regions responsible for or controlling specific traits of interest. Our program role in this grant is that we will screen the 96 barley lines sent from each breeding program for reaction to two separate races of barley leaf rust, a significant disease of barley in Virginia and one isolate of powdery mildew.

Given the renewed interest in barley exports and new demands (30 million bushels per year) for winter barley for use in ethanol production, our program now has increased demands for developing and providing growers and end users with superior cultivars having high yields and desirable quality; since the byproduct dried distillers grain with soluble (DDGS) from ethanol production is rapidly becoming a significant source of nutrient-rich food and feed products.  Our efforts will continue toward the development of high yielding hulled and hulless barley varieties for specific end-use markets benefiting producers in the mid-Atlantic Region.