Growing barley crop nutrition advice

Everything you need to know about fertilising barley, best practice, suitable products, field trials and more.

Nutrition advice for growing Barley

  • Barley crops thrive best in soil with a pH level between 6.0 to 7.5

  • Barley crops prefer well-drained, loamy soil with good fertility

  • Barley crops thrive best in cool temperatures, with an optimal range of 13°C to 21°C

  • Barley crops thrive best in full sun to partial shade, requiring at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day

  • Barley crops require consistently moist soil for optimal growth and development

  • Barley crops require a balanced intake of nutrients to ensure healthy growth, robust grain development, and disease resistance

The Significance of Barley

Barley holds a significant position in the agricultural landscape of the United Kingdom, revered for its nutritional value, versatility, and contribution to various industries. As a vital cereal crop, barley plays a crucial role in supporting both human consumption and industrial applications. It offers a rich source of nutrients, including carbohydrates, fibre, and essential minerals, making it a staple ingredient in numerous food products and beverages. Additionally, barley’s resilience and adaptability make it an excellent choice for sustainable farming practices, promoting environmental and economic sustainability.

Barley Cultivation in the UK

The UK dedicates extensive acreage to barley farming, with hundreds of hectares cultivated annually. This widespread cultivation underscores barley’s significance in meeting the demands of diverse sectors, including brewing, animal feed production, and food processing. Barley’s versatility and nutritional value ensure a dependable supply chain for various industries, catering to the needs of consumers across the UK.

What are the Nutrient Requirements of a Barley Crop?

Barley crops have specific nutrient requirements, primarily requiring nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for optimal growth and yield. Nitrogen is essential for promoting vigorous vegetative growth, while phosphorus supports robust root development and flowering. Potassium contributes to disease resistance and stress tolerance in barley plants.


What are the roles of nutrients in trees?

Nitrogen (N):

  • Essential for promoting vegetative growth and overall plant development.
  • Integral component of chlorophyll, crucial for photosynthesis.
  • Supports the formation of proteins and enzymes necessary for various metabolic processes

Phosphorus (P):

  • Promotes root development and early plant growth.
  • Facilitates energy transfer processes within the plant.
  • Essential for the formation of DNA, RNA, and ATP, crucial for cell division and metabolism.

Potassium (K):

  • Regulates water uptake and osmotic balance in barley plants
  • Enhances plant vigour and stress tolerance
  • Supports enzyme activation and carbohydrate metabolism.

Calcium (Ca):

  • Strengthens cell walls and improves overall plant structure.
  • Plays a role in membrane integrity and signal transduction.
  • Helps prevent disorders like tip burn and improves disease resistance.

Magnesium (Mg):

  • Central component of chlorophyll molecules, crucial for photosynthesis.
  • Activates enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Supports nutrient uptake and utilization, improving overall plant health.

Sulphur (S):

  • Essential for the synthesis of amino acids and proteins.
  • Component of vitamins and coenzymes involved in metabolic processes.
  • Improves nitrogen utilization efficiency and overall plant vigor.

Micronutrients (e.g., Iron, Zinc, Manganese, Copper):

  • Serve as cofactors for various enzymes involved in biochemical reactions.
  • Play crucial roles in photosynthesis, respiration, and hormone regulation.
  • Enhance nutrient uptake and utilization, improving overall plant health and productivity.

What are the Common Deficiencies & Issues Found in a Barley Crop?

When cultivating barley crops, several common nutrient deficiencies and issues may arise, affecting plant health and yield potential. Nitrogen deficiency may result in pale green or yellowing leaves, reduced tillering, and overall stunted growth. Phosphorus deficiency can manifest as slow growth, purplish discoloration on stems, and poor root development. Potassium deficiency may cause leaf yellowing, necrosis, and increased susceptibility to pests and diseases. Additionally, barley crops are susceptible to pests such as aphids and diseases like powdery mildew, which can impact grain quality and yield. Proper soil fertility management and disease prevention strategies are crucial for mitigating these issues and ensuring healthy barley crop growth.


Nitrogen DeficiencySymptoms: Yellowing of older leaves (chlorosis) starting from leaf tips or edges, reduced tillering, stunted growth, and delayed maturity.
Effects: Decreased grain yield and quality, poor plant vigour, and susceptibility to lodging.
Phosphorous DeficiencySymptoms: Dark green or bluish-purple leaves, particularly along leaf margins, reduced root development, and delayed heading.
Effects: Poor root growth, decreased grain filling, and overall yield reduction.
Potassium DeficiencySymptoms: Yellowing or browning of leaf margins, necrotic spots or edges on leaves, weak stems, and lodging susceptibility.
Effects: Reduced drought and disease resistance, poor grain filling, and decreased yield.
Calcium DeficiencySymptoms: Leaf tip burn or necrosis, distorted leaves, and increased susceptibility to diseases.
Effects: Poor root growth, decreased plant vigour, and increased risk of physiological disorders.
Magnesium DeficiencySymptoms: Interveinal chlorosis in older leaves while veins remain green, leaf curling or distortion, and reduced plant size.
Effects: Impaired photosynthesis, decreased carbohydrate metabolism, and reduced grain yield.
Sulphur DeficiencySymptoms: Overall yellowing of leaves, particularly in younger leaves, stunted growth, and poor tillering.
Effects: Reduced protein synthesis, decreased grain quality, and lower yields.
Iron Deficiency:Symptoms: Interveinal chlorosis in younger leaves, leading to yellowing with green veins.
Effects: Impaired photosynthesis, reduced growth, and decreased yield potential.


How can I spot Nutrient Deficiencies in Barley?

Detecting nutrient deficiencies in barley crops requires vigilant observation of plant symptoms and their underlying causes. Regular field monitoring, combined with soil testing and nutrient analysis, facilitates early detection and intervention. Symptoms of nitrogen deficiency include chlorosis and reduced tillering, while phosphorus deficiency may lead to stunted growth and purplish discoloration on stems. Potassium deficiency presents as leaf yellowing and necrosis, accompanied by weakened plant vigour. Pests and diseases such as aphids and powdery mildew can be identified through visual inspection. Timely intervention with appropriate corrective measures helps alleviate deficiencies and ensures optimal barley crop health and productivity.


Leaf Symptoms:

  • Yellowing: Yellowing of leaves, starting from the tips or edges and progressing towards the centre, is a common symptom of nutrient deficiencies. Different nutrients may cause specific patterns of yellowing.
  • Chlorosis: Interveinal chlorosis, where the veins remain green while the rest of the leaf turns yellow, indicates deficiencies of nutrients like magnesium or iron.
  • Leaf Necrosis: Browning or necrosis of leaf margins or tips may occur in severe cases of nutrient deficiencies, particularly potassium or calcium deficiencies.

Stunted Growth:

  • Slow or stunted growth compared to healthy plants can indicate nutrient deficiencies, especially nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium deficiencies.

Abnormal Plant Development:

  • Poor root development or root system abnormalities may be indicative of nutrient deficiencies, particularly phosphorus or calcium deficiencies.
  • Delayed flowering or heading, as well as reduced tillering or branching, may also be signs of nutrient deficiencies affecting reproductive growth.

Leaf Colour and Texture:

  • Changes in leaf colour, such as purplish or reddish discoloration, can indicate phosphorus deficiency.
  • Changes in leaf texture, including wilting, curling, or distortion, may suggest nutrient deficiencies affecting cell structure and integrity.

Plant Vigour:

  • Reduced plant vigour, manifested as overall weakness, wilting, or poor stand uniformity, may indicate nutrient deficiencies impacting overall plant health.

Soil Analysis:

  • Conducting soil tests to assess nutrient levels and pH can provide valuable insights into potential deficiencies and imbalances in the soil. Adjusting fertiliser applications based on soil test results can help prevent nutrient deficiencies in barley crops.


What are the Different Varieties of Barley Commonly Grown in the UK?

Common barley varieties grown in the UK include Maris Otter, Concerto, and Propino. These varieties are selected for their adaptability to UK growing conditions, grain quality, and suitability for specific end-uses, providing options for farmers and industries alike.

Use of ICL’s Products in Barley Cultivation

Utilising ICL’s products in barley cultivation is vital for maximising crop performance and yield. Polysulphate, one of ICL’s offerings, contains a balanced blend of essential nutrients such as sulfur, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These nutrients are pivotal for fostering healthy barley growth from sowing to harvest. With its controlled nutrient release mechanism, Polysulphate ensures a consistent supply of vital elements throughout the growing season. This promotes robust plant growth, enhances disease resistance, and optimises overall yield potential. By integrating Polysulphate into barley farming practices, growers can achieve increased productivity, superior grain quality, and adopt sustainable agricultural approaches aligned with modern farming objectives.



Here are some frequently asked questions we received from farmers regarding growing barley.

  • Barley is typically planted in the spring, as soon as the soil is workable and temperatures start to rise. This timing varies depending on the region, but generally falls between March and April in temperate climates. Some farmers also opt for fall planting, known as winter barley, which is sown in late summer or early autumn and harvested the following spring.

  • Barley thrives in well-drained, loamy soils with good fertility. Soil pH should ideally range between 6.0 and 7.5 for optimal growth. While barley can tolerate a wide range of soil types, it performs best in soils that are rich in organic matter and provide adequate drainage to prevent waterlogging.

  • Barley crops require consistent moisture throughout the growing season, particularly during critical growth stages such as tillering, heading, and grain filling. Adequate soil moisture is essential for promoting healthy root development and maximizing grain yield. However, overwatering should be avoided, as waterlogged conditions can lead to root diseases and reduce yields.

  • Common pests affecting barley include aphids, cereal leaf beetles, wireworms, and armyworms, while diseases such as powdery mildew, leaf rust, and Fusarium head blight are prevalent. Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, including crop rotation, planting resistant varieties, timely scouting, and judicious use of pesticides, help manage pest and disease pressures while minimizing environmental impact. Additionally, practicing good agronomic practices such as proper fertilization, weed control, and field sanitation can further enhance barley crop health and resilience.

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