Barley: Classes and varieties


Barley is divided into three classes based on end use: malting, food and general purpose.


Only the varieties on the malting barley variety designation list are eligible for the malting grades. Only about 20% of malting barley production is actually selected for malting each year. The other 80% is used domestically as livestock feed, exported as feed barley or may be selected for food grade.

There is one malting grade: Select. Malting barley may be covered or hulless varieties. Barley selected for malting that does not qualify for this grade is graded Barley, Sample Select CW/CE, Two-row/Six-row Account “Factor”.


Food barley can be any variety of barley (hulless or covered) that has been selected for a food market. There is a growing interest from food processors for barley in food products. Some examples of food uses are ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, rice like products (after splitting and polishing), thickeners, health foods, tea, etc.

General purpose

General purpose grades include covered and hulless barley not selected for malting or food. General purpose barley is used primarily for animal feed.



The term covered refers to varieties of barley with the outer hull still attached after harvesting. Covered barley varieties may be two-row or six-row.


The term hulless refers to varieties of barley in which the outer hull is loosely adhered to the kernel. The outer hull is so loose, that when this barley is harvested in the field, the outer hull is usually removed. Processors often refer to this type of barley as “naked” barley. Hulless barley varieties may be two-row or six-row.

Two-row barley

A head of two-row barley contains two rows of kernels along its length.

Six-row barley

A head of six-row barley contain six rows of kernels along its length, in two groups of three kernels each.

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