Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a widely grown and highly adaptable cereal crop that is grown predominantly for stockfeed and for malt for the brewing industry. Australia produces high quality barley, with annual production averaging around eight million tonnes per annum. It is Australia’s second largest crop in volume (behind wheat) and is grown across a large geographic area (almost four million hectares) from Western Australia across to the eastern states.


Barley is usually grown for either malting barley or stock feed markets, with different varieties better suited to each end use. However, it is quality standards that determine whether crops grown for the malting market is ultimately accepted, therefore the feed market provides a valuable market for any ‘below standard’ malting grain.

币游注册Australian growers produce around 2.3 million tonnes of malting barley each year and 6 million tonnes of feed barley. Domestic demand for malting barley is around one million tonnes per year and Australian domestic feed use is around two million tonnes each year, resulting in approximately 60% of the total crop being exported each year.

币游注册Generally, it is grown as a broadacre crop on large agricultural enterprises (several hundred or thousands of hectares) and commercial production may require a potentially large investment of capital in land, infrastructure and inputs if establishing a new enterprise. It is grown in rotation with winter and summer crops (cereals, oilseeds and grain legumes) depending on climate and availability of irrigation water. It may also be grown in rotation with pasture for grazing enterprises.

Facts and figures

  • Barley is a widely grown cereal crop
  • It is used mainly for the production of malt for the brewing industry and for stock feed
  • It is the second largest grain crop (by volume) grown in Australia
  • Australia produces around eight million tonnes per annum
  • Australia makes up over 30% of the world’s malting barley trade and approximately 20% of the world’s feed barley trade

Production status

币游注册Barley is grown across most of Australia, except for the Northern Territory and the tropical zones of Australia. In Australia it is generally grown for either malting or feedstock with Australian growers producing around 2.3 million tonnes of malting barley and 6 million tonnes of feed barley each year.

Domestically, malting barley demand is around one million tonnes per year and Australian domestic feed use is around two million tonnes each year. The remaining Australian crop, equating to approximately 60% of total production, is exported to countries in Asia and the Middle East.

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Map of current and potential growing regions


币游注册Brewers use barley (and/or malt) to produce beer and Scochu (a Japanese distilled spirit). It is converted into malt by subjecting it to germination and mild kilning. Malt is also used in many food products, including breakfast cereals, milk drink flavorings, bakery items and confectionery.

币游注册Barley is used as stock feed, especially in the intensive pig, poultry, dairy and beef industries, as a source of energy and protein.

币游注册The trade for barley food products (such as flour, flakes or grits) other than malt, for human consumption is small. However, CSIRO has developed a new variety, BARLEYmax™, which delivers a high level of dietary fibre and can be used to produce foods with a low glycaemic index.

Production Requirements

Growing regions

Barley can be grown in most areas where broadacre cropping is possible, particularly in the traditional cereal production and mixed farming regions of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, southern Queensland and Tasmania.

Soil type

币游注册It is well adapted to a wide range of soil types except those prone to waterlogging or with a low soil pH. It is more salt-tolerant than wheat and therefore is better suited to soils affected by salinity.


It grows predominantly in the temperate climate zones of Australia but also grows well in the subtropical zones of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland.

币游注册Rainfall in the growing areas ranges from 250 to 800mm per annum. Different varieties and types have different rainfall requirements and tolerance to soil moisture. Irrigation may be used to supplement rainfall or boost yields.

币游注册While it has good frost tolerance relative to other cereals, spring frosts during September and early October can cause damage and seriously impact grain yield.


There are approximately 29 varieties available for growing in Australia. When choosing a variety, the main decision for growers will be whether to grow for the malting or feed markets.

The decision whether to grow for the malting or feed grade markets depends on four main factors:

  • the premium paid for grain that is acceptable as malting grade
  • the relative yields of malting and feed grade barley
  • agronomic and disease constraints of the different varieties
  • the likelihood that grain from a malting barley variety will be accepted as malting grade.

Some state governments list barley varieties appropriate to their agricultural regions within the state, e.g.Victoria and , while the  website provides links to the various barley sowing guides, which contain detailed information for each state. Barley Australia publishes a  to assist growers make decisions about sowing. However growers should contact their preferred marketer and agronomist to discuss variety options prior to planting.

Detailed information about the performance of new and existing varieties in different geographical locations can be sourced from the  website.

Planting and crop management

Planting and crop management requirements will vary between growing regions and the varieties planted.

币游注册Identifying the variety best suited to a particular region, that will deliver the greatest return consistent with the grower’s risk profile, will require consideration of relative yield, disease resistance, marketing options, the probability of achieving particular quality grades and the relative  (EPR) charged on varieties. For relevant, regionally-based advice, the  website provides links to the various barley sowing guides, which contain detailed information for each state.

币游注册Generally speaking, after preparing paddocks by spraying for weeds at the start of the year, crops are planted from late April to early June (or even July), usually following a significant rain event. It is somewhat versatile in its planting time as it has a slightly better frost tolerance than wheat; so it can be planted earlier in the season and while it may have reached its flowering stage, is not as likely to be affected by spring frosts. It can also be a better late planting option than wheat, especially if feed grain prices are good.

币游注册However, early planting will generally produce higher yields, larger grain size and lower protein levels making it more likely to achieve malt quality. Growers must consider that crops planted early are more likely to have exposure to frost during flowering, therefore the frost risk must be assessed prior to planting. Early sown crops are also likely to experience higher foliar disease pressure requiring either selecting varieties with high levels of resistance to the major leaf diseases or the use of fungicides.

币游注册Effective crop management depends on being able to identify the growth stage of the crop at any given time, which is crucial for understanding for the timing of herbicide/fungicide and fertiliser applications. The NSW Department of Primary Industries’ publication provides detailed information to assist new producers to understand the crop’s growth stages.

币游注册Applications of fertiliser, particularly nitrogen, will be critical to maximising crop yield. To understand how much fertiliser to apply, growers need to gain an understanding of existing soil nutrition. For new producers, consulting an agronomist or advisor to undertake this assessment is recommended. In the meantime, many state departments of primary industries will have information on their websites to assist growers understand and manage their soils.

币游注册It can be grown under irrigation, so long as the soils are well drained and waterlogging does not occur. Overhead or raised bed irrigation systems are the most appropriate for production.

Weeds, pests, and diseases

Weed control is important, as it is for all crops although barley is known to be more competitive with grass weeds than other crops. Weeds will compete with the crop for light, moisture and nutrients, therefore reducing yield potential. Further, grass weeds in particular can host pests and disease pathogens, from one cereal crop to the next. Good weed management is a critical component of integrated weed, pest and disease management programs.

It is not overly susceptible to damage from field insects although significant problems can arise if conditions favour the build-up of insect populations. Early season infestations of aphids, which transmit plant viruses, can lead to the crop losses due to the Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV); control of such infestations, particularly in higher rainfall regions, is strongly advised. New producers should consult an agronomist or advisor about planning crop rotations that minimise pest carryover, as well as gain an understanding of how to control weeds, pests and diseases.

币游注册The Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food has a , combining paddock and crop systems in one resource. Agriculture Victoria also provides a list of .

币游注册When stored, barley quality is more susceptible to insect damage than many grains due to the need for high levels of germination for malting. Even light infestations of weevils can reduce germination rates. Weevils can also eat or contaminate barley intended for livestock feed. Aerated storage, cool temperatures and low moisture levels will reduce the chances of insect infestation.

It is also important to note that chemical residues in barley can cause problems in some markets, so any proposed treatment for an insect infestation should be carefully considered and an agronomist or adviser consulted prior to fumigation.

Links to a range of documents, publications and apps providing information on weeds, pests and diseases of barley (and other cereal crops) can be found on the  page on the Grains Research and Development Corporation website.

币游注册  provides useful information on contracts and vendor declarations, including samples, templates and quality specifications.

币游注册 , which aims to coordinate production and sends market signals to growers in relation to their .

Daily barley prices can be sourced online, from the grower’s preferred marketer or agricultural newspapers.