Winter Barley-a “forgotten cover crop species”


Winter Barley is an excellent cover crop. Be sure to use varieties with improved disease resistance and winterhardiness.

Winter Barley makes a great cover crop. In fact, in many regions Winter Barley is now being used successfully as a cover crop.  Newer winterhardy varieties make Winter Barley much more viable to use in the colder regions of the upper-Midwest.  Winter Barley performs better on poorer soils than many other cereal grains and its early maturity and forage quality make it a top choice for dairy farmers following corn silage and subsequent manure applications.  Winter Barley is not as “tough” as Winter Cereal Rye under traffic or late planting dates; however it is considerably improved over rye for forage and grain production.

Advantages of Winter Barley

  • Makes excellent feed or haylage
  • Up to 2 weeks earlier harvest than wheat
  • Less N needed for top crop
  • Excellent scavenger of N
  • More tolerant of low fertility
  • Excellent drought tolerance
  • Exceptional erosion control
  • Excellent weed suppression

Disadvantages of Winter Barley

  • Somewhat less winterhardy than rye
  • Less traffic tolerant than rye

Plant Winter Barley at 2 bushels/acre for cover/grain; 3 bushels/acre for cover/baleage.


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