Barley is the world’s fourth most important cereal crop.  In India, it is staple food of the hill people and barley is cultivated for food and feed purposes in plain parts of the country as Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Barley is also used for malt production, which is principally used in brewing industry and proving itself as a good source of better rural livelihood. In Malt Barley, production factors like cultivar  choice,  planting  date,  planting  density, fertilization, irrigation, weed management and quality seed are the most important and reflected in the yield and the malting quality of the crop. Cultivation of malt barley crop has specific crop production requirements which are as follows:


Barley is a rabi (winter season) cereal crop having short growing season. The ideal condition for growing barley is moderately dry period for sowing, occasional showers during the growing season and good weather for harvesting. The growing period in the plains lasts for about 5 months. It is grown mainly in the northern plains for malting purpose. It is a hardy crop and is quite suitable for rainfed drought prone areas and sodic condition.  In areas of good irrigation and medium fertility soils, malt barley of good quality can be produced. 

Climatic Requirement

It thrives best in areas having cool dry winters with low rainfall. The crop can withstand cool humid and warm dry climate but not humid climate which disfavours its growth, mainly due to prevalence of disease. It cannot tolerate frost at any stage of growth and incidence of frost at flowering and hailstorm at the complete grain development damage the crop. Rain during the growth period results in good growth of crop, but rain at maturity causes discolouration of the grains, thus rendering them unfit for malting. Intermittent drought during the growth period results in pre–mature ripening with high nitrogen content and shriveled grains unfit for malting. Uninterrupted growth of the crop can give normal bold. Uniform moisture supply and bright sun – shine at the ripening are important for the production of bright kernels required by the malting industries. The barley crop required around 12-15°C temperature during growth period and around 30°C at maturity. High temperature affects barley at various stages of growth. Floret numbers are greatly reduced at higher temperature of 24°C, in comparison to 18°C. Tillering is affected by day and night temperature regimes. High temperature also leads to etiolation and seedling mortality.

Soil Requirement/ preparation

Barley can be grown successfully on a wide variety of soil ranging in texture from sandy to heavy loam in Indo-Gangetic plains and on the terraced slope of hills. However, it thrives well in well drained, moderately fertile loam or light soil. Earlier, the concept was to plough the field for a fine tilth. The desired tilth may be obtained by one ploughing with soil turning plough followed by 2-3 harrowing. The land should be planked after every harrowing as it breaks the clods. The roots and stubbles of previous crop and weed should be picked – up and thrown out of field as they attract termites. Barley, being a shallow rooted crop, responds well to light textured fine seed bed. Recently after multilocational experimentation in coordinated programme, it has been recommended to go for reduced tillage, i. e. one harrowing, cultivator, planking and then sowing. It will save time, energy, reduce cost of cultivation and produce similar yields. Highly fertile soil cause severe lodging with excess of nitrogen which also increase the nitrogen content in the grains, which is unsuitable for malting. Barley can be well grown to saline – alkaline soil because of its tolerance. An uneven seedbed causes uneven development of the crop and in the end also uneven ripening and quality.


A good crop of barley could be obtained only by adapting of high yielding and disease resistant varieties. Varieties are different for different regions, for soil conditions, sowing conditions and for specific purpose like feed, malt, green forage etc. Therefore selection of varieties should be according to the requirement of areas, soils, conditions and purpose. The malting characteristics of cultivars differ and for this reason the mixing of these cultivars should be avoided. Recently released malt barley varieties are DWRUB52, RD2668 and DWR 28 for timely sown irrigated conditions and DWRB 73 and DWRUB64 for late sown conditions.

Sowing Time

Barley is grown under a wide range of sowing dates determined by differences of latitude, altitude, climatic condition, cropping system, soil type, moisture, irrigation facilities etc. Timely sowing of barley ensures good return from the crop including maximum use of conserved moisture and to avoid high temperature. Delayed sowing reduce the grain yield per unit area and produce poor quality grain, not suitable for malting which can be overcome by using late varieties. The optimum sowing time for good quality and quantity is 5th November to 15th November in Plains. In cotton wheat areas, malt barley can be sown up to 15th December but with specific variety.

Seed Rate and spacing

The seed rate of barley depends upon its test weight, spacing, sowing time and method as well as fertility status. Recent agronomic experiments suggest that for irrigated timely sown in medium fertile soil 100 kg/ha and for irrigated or rainfed late sown in poor fertile soil 120 kg/ha seed is optimum for good crop yield. The seed of two row malt barley varieties should be sown to a depth of 5-7 cm at a distance of 18-20 cm without effecting quality.  It is important to note that seedbed preparation plays a vital role where lower planting densities is used.

Seed Treatment

Seed treatment is most important operation in crop production as it protects the seedling against the attack of externally seed borne diseases. Disease free crop of barley can be obtained by growing resistant varieties. Hot water treatment can be done to avoid certain disease. In case of saline rainfed areas seed should be soaked overnight in water for quick germination and better stand of crop. To control the seed borne diseases, seed should be treated with Bavastin/Vitavax in the ratio of 1:1 @ 2 g per kg seed or treat the seed with Raxil @ 1g/ kg. For the control the termite, Chlorpyriphos (20EC) 125 ml per 100kg seed in 5 liter of water can be used.

Nutrient Requirement

As per early sixties recommendation, fertilizer application to the barley crop is negligible and its requirement depends upon soil test report, climate and variety. Nitrogen is essential for high yield, particularly on soils with low organic content but the excess use of nitrogen cause lodging, adversely affects the yield. On an average, phosphorus and potassium requirement of barley is 30 and 20kg/ha which are adequate to maintain soil fertility. It was reported that split application of potassium (with planting and at 8 weeks after planting) can decrease the risk of lodging. With the increase in yield over the last couple of years, mainly due to genetic improvement, improved production practices and optimum irrigation scheduling, it appears that a total nitrogen application of 90 kg/ha for malt barley, depending on the soil texture and rotation system seems to be sufficient for optimum yield and quality. An additional 20 kg N/ha is also recommended on very sandy soils, where leaching of nitrogen is a major problem. Split application of nitrogen fertilizer is more important under overhead irrigation and sandy soils than under flood irrigation and heavy clay soils. A split of half of the total nitrogen with planting and the rest half 5- 6 weeks after emergence, seems to give the best results. On very sandy soils where leaching is a problem and a history of low nitrogen content in the grain is experienced, the topdressing can be applied at a later stage but not later than the flag leaf stage. The agronomic practices that were most beneficial for malt barley production are early seeding and application of N fertilizer at appropriate rates.


About 80% of the barley area in the country is grown under limited irrigation owing to its more successful cultivation than any other rabi cereals, under brackish water, saline – alkaline soil and in late sown condition. So, barley is generally grown either on conserved soil moisture from the preceding monsoon season or under restricted irrigation. It responds to irrigation in the drier areas and soil with low moisture retention capacity. Frequency and number of irrigation depends on the rains, soil type, variety, availability of water etc., usually barley needs 2-3 irrigation. First irrigation should be done at active tillering stage, 30-35 days after sowing. Second irrigation is done at flag leaf stage, 60-65 days after sowing. Third irrigation is done at milky stage, 80-85 days after sowing. Of these stages active tillering and milky stage are most critical stage for irrigation. In Rajasthan, where soils are sandy, 4-5 irrigations are required for better production. Heavy irrigation should be avoided as it causes lodging, severe yellowing as well as reduction in number of tillers. Irrigation scheduling must be according to evaporation and needs, as per growth stages. It is, however, very important that irrigation is not stopped too early to ensure an even ripening and to produce grain with a high percentage kernel plumpness and acceptable nitrogen content.

Weed Management

Weed generally pose a greater problem in irrigated areas, though barley is a fast growing crop and known to be a good competitor of weeds. The common weeds of barley are Chenopodium album, Convolvulus arvensis, Anagalis arvensis, Cronopus didymus, Avena fatua, Phalaris minor. One hand hoeing after first irrigation is sufficient in controlling the weeds. In case of necessity, following herbicides can help to control the weeds-


Type of weeds



Method of application

Broad leaf




500 g


Spray at 30-35 days after seeding using 400-500 litres of water


4 g

Spray at 30-35 days after seeding using 400-500 litres of water

Narrow leaf

Pinaxaden (Axil)

30-35 g

Spray at 30-35 days after seeding using 400-500 litres of water


1000-1500 g

Spray pre-emergence using 400-500 litres of water


Both Narrow and Broad leaf



750-1000 g


Spray at 30-35 days after seeding using 400-500 litres of water

Isoproturon +2,4-D

750+500 g

Spray at 30-35 days after seeding using 400-500 litres of water


Barley ears bend downwards when they mature and are prone to be blown off by strong winds and this can cause huge yield losses. It is therefore crucial that the barley must be harvested as soon as it reaches a moisture content of 12.5% in order to minimize the risk of ripe barley being exposed to possible damage by wind and other stress. In malting barley, skinning of the grain is avoided during harvesting. Skinning impairs germination and introduces problems during malting. Thus the combine harvester operation should not be as aggressive as for wheat. The recently released two row malt barley varieties can produce as much as six row feed barley varieties in optimum production conditions.

Authors : 

A S Kharub, RPS Verma, Dinesh Kumar, B Sarkar, R Selvakumar And Vishnu Kumar

Directorate of Wheat Research, Karnal -132001

e-mail - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.