Barley is a species of annual grass that produces edible grains. It is the fourth most common grain grown in the U.S., according to Purdue University, and is grown as a consumable crop and as a cover crop. Barley is used to feed both livestock and humans. Healthy seeds for planting will be whole grains with their hull and bran coating intact. A number of factors determine the quality of barley seed and careful reading of the seed tag along with physical inspection of the seed provides a window on the quality and hence growth performance of the seed, according to North Dakota State University.
Look for seed labeling that says pure seed barley as this denotes that other crop grains are not included in significant amounts. The higher the purity percentage of the seed mix, the higher the quality the barley seed tends to be. Higher purity rates also mean that you will not be expending resources to plant, water and care for an unwanted crop seed.
Inspect the seed itself physically. The color and size of the individual grains should be relatively uniform. Feel the weight of the seed in your hand as healthy live seed will feel heavy for its size compared to lower quality barley seed. Smell the seed to ensure it does not have a foul smell from mildew, mold or other disease.
Read the seed tag for the amount of weed seed, loose chaff, small twigs, soil and other contaminants that may be mixed in with the barley. Obviously you want this number to be as low as possible so you are paying just for seed.
Observe the total germination rate outlined on the seed tag. The higher this number the greater germination success you will have and the less seed you will need to purchase and plant to meet your crop and harvest goals.