Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Unranked Angiosperms
Unranked Monocots
Order Poales
Family Poaceae
Genus Hordeum
Species H. vulgare
Binomial name Hordeum vulgare

Other Common Names:

The other common names for barley are Pearl Barley and Perlatum.


BARLEY is a grain, or cereal, that grows very much like wheat. However, it is hardier than wheat or any other cereals and may be grown through a greater range of climates.Barley was considered to be the first ever cereal crop to be domesticated. Along with emmer wheat, a low yielding awned wheat, barley was a staple cereal crop of ancient Egypt, dating back to as far as 5000 BC and even earlier than that. Barley has been cultivated from the most ancient times; in fact, its cultivation can be traced as far back as man's occupations have been recorded.

The grain of this cereal has also played an important part in the advancement of man, for, according to history, some of the present weights and measures originated from it. Thus, the Troy weight grain is said to have been first fixed by finding the average weight of a barley grain, and the inch of linear measure, by placing three grains of barley end to end. Two varieties of barley were domesticated in the Middle East by 8000 BC. It was a staple crop of Neolithic farming.


It is an annual plant that is widely cultivated as a food grain. It is stout, simple stem is hollow and jointed and grows from 11/2 to 3 feet high. The narrow, tapering leaves ascend the stem in two ranks, the third leaf over the first; and their bases form loose sheaths around the stem. The flowers grow in bristly-bearded terminal spikes, producing eventually the elliptic, furrowed barley grains.


Barley is native to the temperate regions of the Old World, from China to southern Europe and Egypt. Probably native to Middle East, from Afghanistan to northern India; now widely cultivated in all temperate regions from Arctic Circle to high mountains in the tropics.


It is generally seen in cultivated beds. The plant prefers light sandy, medium loamy and heavy clay soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic alkaline soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil. The plant can tolerate strong winds but not maritime exposure.


Seeds are sown in shallow furrows about 22 cm apart, dropped through a drill. Crop requires very little interculture or weeding. In dry areas 2-3 waterings are required after sowing. Crop is grown pure, or in mixtures with gram, pea, lentil, berseem, rape, mustard, or linseed. Sometimes grown with wheat. Irrigation increases yields, irrigated crops containing less nitrogen. A light harrowing after first irrigation when crop is about 20 cm tall, gives up to 10% higher yields. Barley is usually grown without any special manuring. However, an application of fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphorus, or potash, in various combinations, influence yield and quality of grain. Additional nitrogen increases yield of straw and grain, but in larger doses, nitrogen increases the protein content and affects its brewing quality. Phosphate fertilizers lower the protein content considerably and influence formation and ripening of grain. Lodging, when it occurs, causes loss in quality and yield of crop, and may be due to poor root system, disease infection, weak straw, or storm damage. Dry warm weather is favourable for grain ripening. Barley is ready for harvest in about 4 months after sowing; some varieties in 60 days. Plants are either pulled out or cut with sickles and sheaves stacked for about a week or more.

Parts Used


The decorticated seeds are the most commonly used part for its medicinal and commercial applications.

Flowering Season

The flowers are hermaphrodite and are in bloom from June to August.

Pests and Diseases

Barley is prone to a wide range of diseases which can be categorized as fungal, bacterial, viral, parasitic, etc.Basal Glume Blotch diseases is caused by Pseudomonas Atrofaciens. A dull brownish-black discoloured area is found at the the base of the glumes that cover the kernel and is seen to be more prominent in the inside part and that on the outside part of the afflicted glume.Bacterial Blight is caused by a bacteria known as Xanthomonas campestris. In this disease, small, pale green spots appear in the the lesion, i.e the abnormal tissues.Net Blotch is yet another disease in which the leaves appear to be afflicted the most. It is caused by the fungus known as Pyrenophora Teres, which leave certain spots on the leaves of barley. The spots in the leaves appear in a netted pattern, appearing in longitudinal lines of brown pigments. Powdery Mildew is caused by another fungus known as Erysiphe Graminis, the infections appears on the upper surface of the leaves and leave sheaths. On these leaves, there are certain gray, fluffy threads of the fungus, which destroy the whole plant slowly.

Medicinal Applications

• They are used in the treatment of dyspepsia caused by cereals, infantile lacto-dyspepsia, and regurgitation of milk and breast distension.


• The seed is digestive, emollient, nutritive, febrifuge and stomachic.

• It is taken internally as a nutritious food or as barley water and is of special use for babies and invalids.

• Its use is said to reduce excessive lactation.

• Barley is also used as a poultice for burns and wounds.

• The plant has a folk history of antitumour activity.

• Barley may be of aid in the treatment of hepatitis and control diabetes.

• Barley bran may have the effect of lowering blood cholesterol levels and preventing bowel cancer.

Commercial Applications


• Barley is now used principally in the manufacture of malt.

• Barley, being a good source of protein, is used as a feed for the livestock.

• Barley is used for soups and as a breakfast cereal, but for whatever purpose it is employed it requires very long cooking to make it palatable.

• It is used for the malting of foods and in the making of alcoholic liquors.

• The barley straw is used to make the bed for the livestock, while bales of barley are used in making paper, fiberboard, etc.

• The starch present in barley is used in making paper, paper starch based detergents, bio-degradable plastics, etc.

• The grains are dried, and the sprouts, which are called malt sprouts, are broken off and sold as cattle food.

• The main use of barley is in making of beer and bread.

• The malted barley is also used as flavours, sweeteners, malt extracts, malt flours, etc.


According to the astro reports barley is governed by the celestial body Venus

Cultural and Religious Significance

A religious importance extended into the Middle Ages in Europe, and saw barley's use in justice, via alphitomancy and the corsned.In ancient Greece, the ritual significance of barley possibly dates back to the earliest stages of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The preparatory kykeon or mixed drink of the initiates, prepared from barley and herbs, was referred to in the Homeric hymn to Demeter, who was also called "Barley-mother".

Folklores and Myths

Among cereals, rye which belonged to the celestial god was opposed to barley, oats and other cereals which belonged to earthly and underworld gods. Therefore, rye features in the mythical world outlook of the Eastern Area, while barley, oats and other cereals feature in the mythical world outlook of the Central and Western Area. Many Europeans traditionally used the word corn to refer to such grains as barley, wheat, and oats.

Europeans often spoke of female corn spirits, either maidens, mothers, or grandmothers. Grain waving in the wind, for example, was said to mark the path of the Corn Mother. Such sayings may have come from ancient beliefs that grains were sacred to harvest goddesses such as Greek Demeter and Roman Ceres. Barley was also a preferred a form of cereal for the Roman gladiators and seafaring Vikings.