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.


2 Responses to Winter Barley-a “forgotten cover crop species”

  1. Barry Fisher June 3, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    Our NW Indiana Dairies are looking for some winter hardy varieties of barley to grow on their sand knobs. The thought being it may do better at germinating than cereal rye on the droughty sites and still provide some competition against resistant weeds. Any recommendations?

  2. Dave July 29, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    Barry, Valor Winter Barley is the most winterhardy Winter Barley I have seen in Indiana and even into Iowa. Valor is available through The CISCO Companies 800-888-2986 in Indiana and the surrounding states. In Iowa and Illinois Welter Seed and Honey markets Valor. Welter can be reached at 800-728-8450. Another variety that is nearly as winterhardy is Thoroughbred Winter Barley. Thoroughbred is available through several suppliers in the Midwest…in Indiana and surrounding states through Byron Seeds (877-935-2490) and CISCO. I really like Winter Barley as a crop and cover crop!