Front Range Seed Analysts
1992 Seed Forum Volume 6 Number 2
SEEDS OF THE FRONT RANGE Jim Bruce
I remember when I was first learning seed identification. Wheat was
wheat, not winter or spring wheat. Wheat simply had certain characteristics
and that made it wheat. Sorghum was sorghum, not broom corn, grain
sorghum, or milo. It had certain features which made it sorghum. Barley
is another one of those crops which is simply barley to the seed analyst.
We don't usually distinguish the different types and uses as does the seedsman.
But each ot these crops are multi
use species and characteristics familiar to us can be used to distinguish the different types and their use.
Recently I have become interested in barley and found that there is much still to be learned about the grain. This is true even though I have worked with it for years and have watched it grow every spring as one of our most common crops along the Front Range. I'm not alone. Even the botanists have difficulty with barley and its origins.
Barley is one of the oldest crops known to man. It appears in the archaeological records as early as 7900 BC, with cultivated wheat just preceding its appearance. Two areas of origin have been hypothesized. One is a western origin centering around Egypt and Mesopotamia. The other is in the east centering around India and China. Unfortunately, botanists have yet to find traces of the true ancestral wild forms that may have been the intermediates between the wild types of barley and our present cultivated forms. Barley is one of those crops which seems to have suddenly appeared in its present cultivated from and quickly, spread to all areas of civilization.
As interesting as barley's shady origin is the question of whether two or six row barley came first. once again, examining the archaeological evidence, we find that two row barley appears to predate the six row types. This contradicts all botanical theories about reduction of plant parts as a species evolves. But the evidence strongly supports the theory that two row barley, both hulled and naked seeded forms (missing lemma and palea), predate the six row types by at least 1000 years.
For the seed analyst, two and six rowed varieties are easily distinguidhed by examining the samples of barley in bulk. Two rowed varieties usually have a plumper body. The kernels are uniform and symmetrical, simular to a fooball in form. Generally, they have a thinner, tighter hull with the lemma and palea lighter in color than the six row types. The aleurone layer is most often colorless, or whiteish.
Six rowed varieries contain a portion of the kernels with a asymmetrical
twist. The kernels are more slender than their two rowed cousins with hulls
colored and not as adhering. The aleurone layer may be white, blue, or black. Canadian breeders use the blue aleurone varieties as a marker for their country's selections.
Usage varies between the two types of barley. Both types are used as feed barley, with the six row types giving higher yields. Feed barley is usually high in nitrogenous compounds which gives the endosperm a hard, "steely" texture. When cut open, the color of the endosperm is a pearly gray.
Barley is also used to make malt. Malt is utilized in the making of beer (brewers malt), liquors (distillers malt) and for food (cooking, malted milk, and cereal). Malting barley can be either two or six rowed varietiews. Two row types predominate in the premium beer of Europe where the brew is made of 100% malt. Six row types predominate in the U.S. where most of the brew is known as adjuncted beer. This means that other unmalted cereals such as rice and corn are added to make the beer lighter or "watered down". Malting varieties can be dertermined by cutting the endosperm open. Unlike feed barley, the starch is white and "mealy", making for easy modification of the starches to sugars during the malting process.
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