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Developing winter barley adapted for production in Ontario

Principal Investigator: Gavin Humphreys

Research Institution: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Timeline: April 2022 – July 2025


  • Generate an international collection of winter barley from sources in Canada, USA, and Europe.
  • Evaluate winter barley introductions at three Ontario locations (Harrow, Woodstock, Elora) for agronomic suitability including winter survival, maturity, lodging resistance and grain yield potential.
  • Evaluate resistance in the winter barley collection to important diseases including barley yellow dwarf virus, leaf rust, stem rust, net blotch, and scald.
  • Evaluate Fusarium head blight (FHB) resistance of selected elite winter barley lines using artificial inoculation.


  • The evaluation of a diverse collection of superior winter barley germplasm with the aim to identify lines with agronomic and disease resistance characteristics suitable for production in Ontario will provide a germplasm base to consider winter barley cultivar development suitable for feed and food markets, which could provide novel economic opportunities for Ontario’s grain farmers.

Scientific Summary:

Barley is an important crop with global production of 156.41 million metric tonnes (t) in 2019. In Canada, the total seeded area of barley in 2019 was 2.99 million ha, with 95% of production in western Canada. In 2020, only 113,200 t of barley was produced in Ontario, which represents a significant drop for spring barley production from 159,000 t in 2015. At present in Ontario, approximately 2,000 ha of winter barley are grown. Barley is used for both livestock and human consumption in Ontario; however, the decline in barley acreage and production has resulted in a shortfall in locally-produced barley for both feed and food purposes. Winter barley represents an innovative avenue to increase Ontario-grown barley production. In addition, Ontario producers are searching for alternatives to winter wheat to reduce competition at the elevator, to access new markets and to provide for local end-users.

The development of new winter barley varieties will benefit producers by diversifying their options of beneficial fall-sown crops. In addition, the inclusion of winter barley in crop rotations will have many agronomic benefits: 1) providing higher grain yield potential than spring-sown barley, 2) reduction of field erosion and topsoil losses due to winter and spring runoff, 3) break up of disease and pest cycles compared to a straight corn-soybean cropping systems, 4) provide the opportunity to use alternative herbicide and fungicide chemistries to reduce the buildup of weed and pathogen resistance, 5) offer an opportunity to control glyphosate-resistant weeds and volunteer glyphosate-resistant corn or soybeans, 6) because winter barley matures earlier than winter wheat it will more effectively spread out workload associated with seeding and harvest for farm operations, and 7) winter barley will provide a true double cropping opportunity when combined with an early-maturing legume such as soybean or pea. 

External Funding Partners:


Cribit Seeds