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Winter Barley in Ontario

E Reinbergs, Department of Crop Science, Ontario Agricultural College

Winter barley is not as hardy as winter wheat, but in areas of Ontario where winter survival is not a major problem, i.e., south of the 2700 heat unit line, it can be grown as a profitable cereal crop. Like all fall seeded crops, winter barley reduces the farmer's workload in the spring and eliminates the wait while fields dry to workable conditions. Winter barley yields at least 15 per cent more and has better lodging resistance than spring barley. It matures much earlier than winter wheat or any of the spring barley varieties and therefore is best suited for double cropping practices (Tables 1 and 2). Farmers can plant the barley in the fall and harvest it as silage in late June or as mature grain in early July. Then the field can be planted to early-maturing corn or field beans.

The Ontario breeding program for winter barley is a limited one. The main breeding work is done at the Crop Science Department, University of Guelph (Fig. 1), whereas other stations, such as Ridgetown College of Agricultural Technology, at Ridgetown, Ontario, and Canada Agriculture at Harrow, Ontario participate in variety evaluation.

Several improved varieties have been developed and released from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food financed Guelph program - Kenate (1954), resistant to mildew; Dover (1962), very early with good lodging resistance; Huron (1974), high yield and resistance to two typical winter barley diseases, scald and net blotch, that in some years caused serious damage to the older varieties; and OAC Halton (1979). At present Huron and OAC Halton are the only recommended winter barley varieties for Ontario While both varieties have genetic resistance to powdery mildew, they have only field tolerance to loose smut. Therefore seed treatments with Vitaflo are recommended to avoid losses due to this disease.

The new variety OAC Halton is the highest yielding winter barley (Table 3), with good lodging resistance, better yield, larger kernels and even better disease resistance than Huron (Table 4). Seed supplies of OAC Halton were limited for the 1980 season, because only 25 kg of Breeder and 25 kg of Select seed were released to SeCan Association in the fall of 1979 for further increase and distribution.

As indicated before, winter barley is not as hardy as winter wheat. For good winter survival it has to be seeded early enough to obtain adequate top growth and root development in the fall. In the Guelph area it should be seeded at or before September 10.

To secure good spring growth and recovery from winter injury an early spring topdressing of additional Nitrogen (approximately 65 kg N/ha) is recommended just before growth begins.

From the Guelph breeding program new selections are presently evaluated at Flora and other locations in South-Western Ontario. Several of these have improved agronomic characteristics over the presently recommended varieties. However, not much further improvement in winter survival [an be expected in the near future. While there is a significant switch from spring to winter barley in European countries, insufficient winter hardiness will remain the main limiting factor for increased winter barley production in Ontario.

Table 1:

Crop Variety Yield t/ha


Test weight


Height (cm) Lodging (1-9) Winter survival Comparative maturity
W. barley Dover 5,0 64 78 3,9 88 June 27
  Huron 5,6 59 75 2,3 89 June 29
  OAC Halton 7,0 62 83 3,5 93 July 1
Spr. Barley Vanier 4,7 58 99 - - July 20
  Herta 4,6 60 83 - - July 21
W. wheat Fredrick 6,1 77 105 - 100 July 13
Oats Scott 4,3 40 98 - - July 27

Table 2

Crop Variety Yield t/ha Disease resistance Disease      
      loose smut Mildew Leaf rust Scald H. teres
W, barley Dover 3,7 MS R MR R S
  Huron 4,6 MS R R R R
Spr. Barley Herta 3,6 MS R S - -
  Vanier 3,9 MS R S - -
W. wheat Fredrick 4,7 MS S MR - -

S=susceptible, R=resistant, MR=moderately resistant, MS=moderately susceptible

Table 3

Variety Yield t/ha Area I (2) Area II (6) Mean (8)
DOver 4,5 3,4 3,9
Huron 5,0 3,1 4,1
OAC Halton 6,0 4,1 5,0

Copyright 1980