Barley is thought to be the first type of cereal to have been grown as a crop, making it one of the oldest ever crops. Barley was grown as far back as around 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. It originates from the Middle East and Mediterranean region. Barley is also the first crop in the sequence to be harvested. Depending on the weather conditions, it is harvested in Europe in mid to late June. When the moisture content drops below 14 percent, barley can be gathered in from the field. Its early harvesting and sowing times mean that barley can be used to take the edge off peak workloads in crop production. Its early timing also allows sufficient time to till the field afterwards and sow the next crop. Due to its phytomedicinal properties and minimal requirements for its location, barley is often the last cereal in the crop rotation on good soils. A crop and seed planning software application is recommended to ensure good crop management.
Spring and winter barley varieties have different demands on their location. Spring barley requires approximately 95 days to mature and can also be grown in cooler regions. Winter barley, on the other hand, needs higher temperatures and has a growth period of approximately 270 days. Both varieties can be distinguished by their different ears. The grains are arranged in either two, four or six rows. Spring barley has predominantly two rows, while winter barley has mostly four. It is also the most commonly grown due to it being high in protein and therefore very well suited to feed production. Spring barley contains more carbohydrates, which makes it appeal to breweries and distilleries. Barley also contains a high proportion of cellulose since its grains are formed with husks. As a food grain, however, barley has largely been forgotten in Europe. Its main growing areas include France, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Poland. Over the past few years, the cultivation of barley in Europe overall has been in decline.