Hordeum vulgare

Cool season annual cereal grain


  • Biomass/organic matter source (Dry Matter: 3,000-10,000 lbs/ac/yr)
  • Erosion control
  • Weed suppression
  • Nurse crop or companion crop
  • Nutrient recycler

Plant Highlights

  • EXCELLENT for providing erosion control, for providing lasting residue
  • VERY GOOD for taking up & storing excess N, for increasing organic matter and improving soil structure, for suppressing weeds, for animal grazing (production, nutritional quality & palatability), for quick growth and establishment

Cultural Traits

  • Very good heat tolerance
  • Very good drought tolerance
  • Good shade tolerance
  • Fair flood tolerance
  • Very good tolerance to low fertility
  • pH range 5.0-8.3 (NRCS), prefers 6.0-8.5 (SAN)


Planting depth: 3/4 - 2 inches

Seeding Method

  • Drilled: Seed at 50-100 lb./A (1-2 bu/A)
  • Broadcast: Seed at 80-125 lb./A (1.6-2.5 bu/A)

Seed Cost: .05-.20 $/lb

Seed Availability: Readily available


Work by Evensen, Osgood, and El-Swaify suggests that the 'Wysor' cultivar is suitable for a cover crop in Hawai`i.


with annual legumes or grasses, perennial ryegrass

Soil Improvements

  • Good for loosening subsoil
  • Good at releasing P and K
  • Very good at loosening topsoil

Pest Control

  • Root knot nematode susceptible (NRCS)
  • Fair for disease suppression
  • Very good allelopathic properties
  • Very good weed suppression
  • Good for attracting beneficial insects

Management Attributes

  • Good trafficability
  • Rapid establishment and growth ideal for short windows


  • Barley can be easily killed with grass herbicides or by disking or mowing at mid to late bloom stage, prior to setting seed.
  • Barley cover crops have been shown to increase populations of centipedes, predator mites, beneficial spiders, and other important predators.
  • Barley can be a host for nematode species Meloidogyne javanica.

Uses in the Pacific Region

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Uses in Hawai`i

The Hawai`i Natural Resources Conservation Service Technical Guide includes Barley. Their specification describes Barley as follows:

  • Minimum broadcast seeding rates of 70 lbs. pure live seed/acre;
  • pH range from 5.0-8.3;
  • Approximate growing time 90 days;
  • Approximate dry matter yield 1 ton/acre;
  • Approximate N content 18 lbs./T dry matter;
  • Add 20 lbs. of nitrogen/ton dry matter at plow down;
  • Optimum planting period year round at elevations over 1500 ft.
  • Optimum planting period fall/winter at elevations below 1500 ft.

Evensen, Osgood and El-Swaify conducted five years of research with small grains as cover crops on sugarcane plantations for erosion and weed control. Variety trials for 51 cultivars of oat, barley, wheat, ryegrass and rye grain on Hawai`i, Molokai, and Lanai were compared. Of the barley trials, 'Wysor' was the most promising (in terms of vigorous growth, rapid soil cover, weed suppression, low plant height, and lack of flowering). This information has applications for pineapple, coffee and tropical fruit tree orchards.

For More Information

UC Davis On-line Cover Crop Index


Evensen, C.I., Osgood, R.V., & El-Swaify, S.A. Small grain cover crops in Hawaii for erosion and weed control. A poster paper presented at the conference on "Cover Crops, Soil Quality and Ecosystems", March 12-14,1997.

1998. Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 2nd ed. Sustainable Agriculture Network, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, USA. pp. 212.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hawai`i Field Office Technical Guide, Section IV, Code 340 "Cover and Green Manure Crop" May 1992. Pacific Islands Area Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG) - East Area

Text last updated on 9/23/02

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These webpages were originally generated under a grant program from Western SARE entitled "Covering New Ground: Tropical Cover Crops for Improving Soil Quality" EW98-012 (1998-2002).