About Barley Grass Yearly Production


Barley grass is an annual often planted in warmer climates as ground cover for the winter months. The crop also is a good source of forage and feed for cattle, especially those being raised organic. Primarily, the crop is used to prevent soil leaching and erosion during the winter months. Because the crop is very drought resistant and prefers neutral soil, barley grass is good soil cover for regions with dry, cold winters and additional crop production in the spring and summer.


Less cold resistant than some legumes and other winter ground cover, barley grass should be planted in early fall so that the crop is growing before the first frost. Barley grass is less vigorous than rye and some other types of ground cover, but that makes it easier to incorporate in the spring. The decreased biomass produced by barley, as opposed to rye, makes it somewhat less efficient as a crop, but more efficient as ground cover. The seeding rate is 60 to 120 pounds per acre.


Barley grass is a grain crop, so it also can be used as summer crop to produce dry matter for farm animals. When used as dry matter, with adequate rainfall and spring planting, barley grass will produce approximately 1.7 tons per acre for the first cutting and .7 tons per acre for the second. A third cutting is usually non-productive. If planted in the fall for ground cover and winter forage, barley grass will provide light forage.


Other grain crops, such as rye grass, tend to perform better with a higher annual yield. Rye grass is more cold tolerant and can be planted later in the fall. In addition, spring planted rye has a higher yield in the first cutting and can get more cuttings than barley grass. Rye grass, however, prefers a more acidic soil than barley grass. Some types of ground cover legumes are even more appropriate for winter forage as they also help fix nitrogen in the soil.


Barley grass is good pasture cover for regions with cold, dry winters, so long as the planting can be accomplished at least 45 days before the first frost. Even if mowing or frost then kills the grass, it will provide adequate ground cover to prevent winter erosion. In addition, barley grass is an annual, so some natural re-occurrence of the crop will continue if the crop is allowed to go to seed. As a pasture cover, barley grass may not require annual replanting so long as it is allowed to go to seed.

Soil Preferences

Barley grass produces best when in neutral to slight acidic soils with good drainage. Nitrogen fertilizer applied to the field also may increase production. The crop performs best in silty loam or loam soils and is shade, drought and cold-resistant.

Keywords: barley grass, winter ground cover, pasture cover

About this Author

Lucinda Gunnin began writing in 1988 for the “Milford Times." Her work has appeared in “Illinois Issues” and dozens more newspapers, magazines and online outlets. Gunnin holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science from Adams State College and a Master of Arts in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.