Louisiana Barley gets Head

A number of staging systems have evolved for describing the development of cereal crops such as barley. The information below has been extracted, compiled, and narrowed to apply guidance and a simplified understanding of my small 85s.f. Louisiana barley plot & process …of Home grown- Homemade 6-Row winter Barley. Special thanks to the University of Minnesota Barley Research Center. And they said it could be done here….


Growth and development
The growth cycle of barley has the following divisions: germination, seedling establishment and leaf production, tillering, stem elongation, pollination, and kernel development and maturity.

Based on the University of Minnesota research the minimum temperature for germination of barley is 34 degrees to 36 degrees F; however, I planted my winter barely in 70° daytime weather and noticed germination take place at around 45° F nights in late November. During this time the seed takes up moisture, the primary root (radicle) emerges. The radicle grows downward, providing anchorage and absorbing water and nutrients, and eventually develops lateral branches. Other roots formed at the level of the seed make up the seminal root system. These roots become highly branched and remain active throughout the winter growing season.


Seedling establishment and leaf production
Once the seedling has emerged, the coleoptile ceases elongating and the first true leaf appears. Then leaves appeared about every 3 to 5 days and continued growing until the tillering stage at which time the plants went dormant for the winter.


When the seedling has about three leaves, tillers usually begin to emerge. Ability of barley plants to tiller is an important method of adapting to changing environmental conditions. When environmental conditions are favorable or if the plant density is reduced, compensation is possible by producing more tillers. According to University of Minnesota Barley Research deep seeding and high seeding rates usually decrease the number of tillers formed per plant. There may be more tillers formed when early season temperatures are low, when the plant population is low, or when the soil nitrogen level is high (I believe levels of high nitrogren was the case in my garden). Some tillers initiate roots, contributing to the nodal root system.

2548-5 2548-8

Stem elongation
Until jointing, the growing point is below the soil surface where it is protected somewhat from frost, hail, or other damage; giving the plant time to establish itself. One month after seed planting there was plant emergence, the upper internodes of the stem begins to elongate, moving the growing point above the soil surface. Towards the end of February the head also began to grow, although it is still too small to readily detect through the surrounding leaf sheaths. Next step is the “boot” stage, the head should become prominent within the flag leaf sheath.


Whats to come in Louisiana’s Spring? From March 4th, 2015… moving forward…

Pollination flowering
Pollination usually takes place in barley just before or during head emergence from the boot. Pollination begins in the central portion of the head and proceeds toward the tip and base. Since pollen formation is sensitive to stress, water deficits and high temperatures at this time will decrease the number of kernels that form and may reduce yields. These yield reductions can be diminished by planting early so that pollination and early grain filling is completed before late season stresses occur.

Kernel development and maturity
Once head emergence and pollination have occurred, kernels begin to develop. The length of the barley kernel is established first, followed by its width. This helps explain why thin barley developed under stress conditions is usually as long as normal grain, but is narrower. The first period of kernel development, designated the “watery ripe” and “milk” stages, lasts about 10 days. Although the kernels do not gain much weight during this phase, it is extremely important because it determines the number of cells that will subsequently be used for storing starch. Kernels crushed in this stage initially yield a watery substance which later becomes milky. Kernels that are storing starch and growing rapidly are characterized by a white semi-solid consistency termed “soft dough.” This period usually lasts about 10 days following the milk stage. Finally, as the kernel approaches maturity and begins losing water rapidly, its consistency becomes more solid, termed “hard dough.” This is when the kernel also loses its green color.
When kernel moisture has decreased to about 30 to 40 percent, it has reached physiological maturity and will not accumulate additional dry matter. The final yield potential has been established at this time. An easily identified field indicator of physiological maturity is 100 percent loss of green color from the glumes and peduncle. Although the moisture content of the grain is still too high for direct combining, it can be swathed and windrowed. When kernel moisture has decreased to 13 to 14 percent, the barley kernel is ready for combining and threshing.


Leaf area establishment and duration
Since photosynthesis provides energy for growth and dry matter for yield, it is important that leaf area be established rapidly and protected throughout the growing season. Early in the plant’s growth, the leaf blades are the major photosynthetic organs. The rate of leaf area establishment depends on temperature, but can be increased by high nitrogen fertilization and seeding rates. The duration of leaf function is also important for maximum grain yield. The maximum leaf area is usually reached about heading, then declines during grain growth when the demand is great for photosynthesis. As the lower leaves die, the upper leaf blades, leaf sheaths, and heads become very important as photosynthetic sources for grain filling. For maximum yields, the last two leaf blades and sheaths, as well as the head and awns, are particularly important. Barley also has a limited capacity to mobilize substances that were produced and stored earlier in the growing season if conditions reduce the capacity of the plants to produce current photosynthate.

This is a homebrewing adventure which has required research, a moderate green thumb, and lots of patience.  My excitement and enthusiasm of seeing the beginnings of a barley head cannot be understood by many. Here is my 3/1/15 picture of awesomeness!!!


I am realistic …..Even “IF” the barley does seed and provide grain the odds are against me in properly kilning/malting to any sort of appropriate standard. It took me 3 years to successfully produce hop cones in the tropical forest we call south Louisiana (well below the 35 Latitude). Relocating hop plants yearly to find the sweet spot of early sun and afternoon shade and the trial and error of different breeds. I do not kid myself into thinking the grain project will work year one. Am I hopeful, YES, but mostly realistic. This is a marathon. Hops Don’t grow here……..Barley Doesn’t grow here….. for many reasons.
But I’m stubborn and determined to brew the only homegrown, homebrewed, homemade Louisiana Ale in recent history.

Happy Gardening, Brewing, and Beer Consuming. I’ll see you soon.

East Happyland Round



  1. Admire your grit and ingenuity…I live in Baton Rouge, am an avid home brewer and gardener, and have toyed with the idea of home grown bar!
    ley and hops. I understand Abita Brewer has had some success with growing hops in Louisiana…cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! One of these days I’ll enjoy a homegrown homebrewed beer. You should give hops a shot…they are essentially weeds that just take a little molding. Rhizomes go for sale around March-April.


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