Barley, a major cereal grain, is a member of the grass family that is cultivated in temperate climates across the world. The crop was one of the earliest cultivated grains and was probably first cultivated in Eurasia about 10,000 years ago.
The Characteristics Of The Crop
Barley was domesticated from the wild ancestor Hordeum vulgare which grows abundantly in areas of the Fertile Crescent. Domesticated barley has nonshattering spikes while the wild one has brittle spikes. Thus harvesting the former is much easier. The spikelets of domesticated barley are usually organized in triplets alternating along the rachis. Several varieties of barley are currently cultivated across the world.
Cultivation Of Barley
Barley adapts well to a wide variety of climates and is grown as a summer crop in temperate areas and as a winter crop in tropical climates. The crop germinates within one to three days. Barley tolerates greater soil salinity than wheat and is less cold tolerant than winter wheat. The relatively drought resistant crop has a short growing season. The plant is susceptible to the barley mild mosaic bymovirus, bacterial blight, and several other diseases, and must be protected against them to save the crop.
Production Of Barley
In 2014, 144 million tons of barley was produced of which 14% was produced by the Russian Federation, the top producing country. France and Germany ranked second and third in barley production in the same year.
Uses Of Barley
Barley is a rich source of nutrients like protein, B vitamins, niacin, dietary minerals, and dietary fiber. The grain is a particularly good source of manganese and phosphorus. Raw barley is 78% carbohydrate, 10% protein, 10% water, and 1% fat.
Dehulled barley is used to prepare a number of food items like flour, flakes, grits, etc. Barley in these forms can be used to make porridge, gruel, and a wide variety of other dishes in Central and Eastern Europe. In Saudi Arabia, people consume barley soup during Ramadan. Several other recipes in the Middle East like the murri, kashk, and kashkak use barley.
Research suggests that barley consumption is beneficial in several ways. It reduces cholesterol levels in the blood, improves the regulation of blood sugar, and has other health benefits too. However, since barley contains gluten, it is not recommended for people with gluten-related disorders.
Barley is also extensively used in beer and whiskey production. Non-alcoholic beverages like barley water and barley roasted tea are also produced from barley.
In the US, half of the barley produced is used to feed livestock. Barley is also the principal feed grain in Canada, Europe, and the northern US.
Barley is also used as an algicide in England where barley straw is placed in mesh bags and floated in fish ponds to curb algal growth in a natural manner. Other ornamental and cultural used of barley are also found.