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Barley is a cereal grain derived from the annual grass Hordeum vulgare.

Barley serves as a major animal feed crop, with smaller amounts used for malting (mostly for beer and certain distilled beverages) and in health food. It is used in soups, stews and barley bread in various countries, such as Scotland and in Africa.

In 2007 ranking of cereal crops in the world, barley was fourth both in terms of quantity produced (136 million tons) and in area of cultivation (566,000 km²).

Etymology

The Oxford English Dictionary records the derivation from the Old English bærlic "barley", although the -lic ending may indicate it was an adjective pertaining to the crop or plant, rather than a noun. It was first recorded around 966 CE in the compound word bærlic-croft. The old English word was bære, which was related to the Latin word farina "flour", and gave rise to bærlic meaning "of barley". It survives in the north of Scotland as bere, and refers to a specific strain of six-row barley grown there. The word barn, which originally meant barley-house, is also rooted in these words.

Biology

Barley is a member of the grass family. It is a self-pollinating, diploid species with 14 chromosomes. The wild ancestor of domesticated barley, Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum, is abundant in grasslands and woodlands throughout the Fertile Crescent and is abundant in disturbed habitats, roadsides and orchards. Outside of this region the wild barley is less common and is usually found in disturbed habitats.

Domestication

Wild barley has a brittle spike; upon maturity, the spikelets separate, facilitating seed dispersal. Domesticated barley has non-shattering spikes, making it much easier to harvest the mature ears. The non-shattering condition is caused by a mutation in one of two tightly linked genes known as Bt1 and Bt2; many cultivars possess both mutations. The non-shattering condition is recessive, so varieties of barley that exhibit this condition are homozygous for the mutant allele.

Two row and six row barley

Two-row and six-row barley
Spikelets are arranged in triplets which alternate along the rachis. In wild barley (and other Old World species or Hordeum) only the central spikelet is fertile, while the other two are reduced. This condition is retained in certain cultivars known as two-row barleys. A pair of mutations (one dominant, the other recessive) result in fertile lateral spikelets. This produces six-row barleys. (See Cultivars). Recent genetic studies have revealed a mutation in one gene, vrs1 is responsible for the transition from two-row to six-row barley

Two-row barley has a lower protein content than six-row barley and thus more fermentable sugar content. High protein barley is best suited for animal feed. Malting barley is usually lower protein('low grain nitrogen', usually produced without a late fertilizer application) which shows more uniform germination, needs shorter steeping, and has less protein in the extract that can make beer cloudy. Two-row barley is traditionally used in English ale style beers. Six-row barley is common in some American lager style beers, especially when adjuncts such as corn and rice are used, whereas two-row malted summer barley is preferred for traditional German beers. Four-row is unsuitable for brewing.

Hulled and naked barley

Hulless or "naked" barley (Hordeum vulgare L. var. nudum Hook. f.) is a form of domesticated barley with an easier to remove hull. Naked barley is an ancient food crop, but a new industry has developed around uses of selected hulless barley in order to increase the digestible energy of the grain, especially for swine and poultry. Hulless barley has been investigated for several potential new applications as whole grain, and for its value-added products. These include bran and flour for multiple food applications.

Classification

In traditional classifications of barley these morphological differences have led to different forms of barley being classified as different species. Under these classifications two-rowed barley with shattering spikes (wild barley) is classified as Hordeum spontaneum K.Koch. Two-rowed barley with non-shattering spikes is classified as H. distichum L., six-rowed barley with non-shattering spikes as H. vulgare L. (or H. hexastichum L.), and six-rowed with shattering spikes as H. agriocrithon Åberg.

The fact that these differences were driven by single-gene mutations, coupled with cytological and molecular evidence, has led most recent classifications to treat these forms as a single species, H. vulgare L.

History

Barley in Egyptian hieroglyphs
jt barley determinative/ideogram M34
jt (common) spelling i-t-U9:M33
šma determinative/ideogram U9
Barley was one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East, at the same time as einkorn and emmer wheat. Wild barley (H. vulgare ssp. spontaneum) ranges from North Africa and Cretemarker in the west, to Tibet in the east. The earliest evidence of wild barley in an archaeological context comes from the Epipaleolithic at Ohalo IImarker at the southern end of the Sea of Galileemarker. The remains were dated to about 17000 BCE. The earliest domesticated barley occurs at Aceramic Neolithic sites, in the Near East such as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B layers of Tell Abu Hureyra, in Syriamarker. Barley has been grown in the Korean Peninsula since the Early Mumun Pottery Period (c. 1500–850 BCE) along with other crops such as millet, wheat, and legumes.

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond argues that the availability of barley, along with other domesticable crops and animals, in southwestern Eurasia significantly contributed to the broad historical patterns that human history has followed over approximately the last 13,000 years; i.e., why Eurasian civilizations, as a whole, have survived and conquered others.

Barley beer was probably the first drink developed by Neolithic humans. Barley later on was used as currency.Alongside emmer wheat, Barley was a staple cereal of ancient Egypt, where it was used to make bread and beer. The general name for barley is jt (hypothetically pronounced "eat"); šma (hypothetically pronounced "SHE-ma") refers to Upper Egyptian barley and is a symbol of Upper Egypt. The Sumerian term is akiti.According to Deuteronomy 8:8, barley is one of the "Seven Species" of crops that characterize the fertility of the Promised Land of Canaan, and barley has a prominent role in the Israelite sacrifices described in the Pentateuch (see e.g. Numbers 5:15). A religious importance extended into the Middle Ages in Europe, and saw barley's use in justice, via alphitomancy and the corsned.

In ancient Greece, the ritual significance of barley possibly dates back to the earliest stages of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The preparatory kykeon or mixed drink of the initiates, prepared from barley and herbs, referred in the Homeric hymn to Demeter, whose name some scholars believe meant "Barley-mother". The practice was to dry the barley groats and roast them before preparing the porridge, according to Pliny the Elder's Natural History (xviii.72). This produces malt that soon ferments and becomes slightly alcoholic.

Pliny also noted barley was a special food of gladiators known as hordearii "barley-eaters". However, by Roman times, he added that wheat had replaced barley as a staple.

Tibetan barley has been a staple food in Tibet since the fifth century A.D. It along with a cool climate that permitted storage, produced a civilization that was able to raise great armies. It is made into a flour product called tsampa that is still a staple in Tibet, and into hand-rolled balls.

In medieval Europe, bread made from barley and rye was peasant food, while wheat products were consumed by the upper classes. Potatoes largely replaced barley in Eastern Europe in the 19th century.

Production

Barley output in 2005.
Dots are centred on the capital of each country and do not reflect the internal distribution of barley production within that country.
Top Ten Barley Producers — 2007
(million metric tonne)
15.7
11.8
11.7
11.0
9.5
7.4
6.0
5.9
5.1
4.6
World Total 136
Source:
UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Barley was grown in about 100 countries worldwide in 2007. The world production in 1974 was 148,818,870 tonnes; since then, there has been a slight decline in the amount of barley produced worldwide.

German botanical illustration of barley


Cultivation

Barley is a widely adaptable crop. It is currently popular in temperate areas where it is grown as a summer crop and tropical areas where it is sown as a winter crop. Its germination time is anywhere from 1 to 3 days. Barley likes to grow under cool conditions but is not particularly winter hardy.

Barley is more tolerant of soil salinity than wheat, which might explain the increase of barley cultivation in Mesopotamia from the 2nd millennium BC onwards. Barley is not as cold tolerant as the winter wheats (Triticum aestivum), fall rye (Secale cereale) or winter TriticaleTriticosecale Wittm. ex A. Camus.), but may be sown as a winter crop in warmer areas of the world such as Australia.

Barley has a short growing season and is also relatively drought tolerant.

Plant diseases

This plant is known or likely to be susceptible to barley mild mosaic bymovirus as well as bacterial blight. Barley can be susceptible to many diseases but plant breeders have been working hard to incorporate resistance. The devastation caused by any one disease will depend upon the susceptibility of the variety being grown and the environmental conditions during disease development.

Uses

Algicide

Barley straw, in Englandmarker, is placed in mesh bags and floated in fish ponds or water gardens to help reduce algal growth without harming pond plants and animals. Barley straw has not been approved by the EPA for use as a pesticide and its effectiveness as an algaecide in ponds has produced mixed results during university testing in the US and the UK.

Animal feed

Half of the United States' barley production is used as an animal feed. Barley is an important feed grain in many areas of the world not typically suited for maize production, especially in northern climates - for example, northern and eastern Europe. Barley is the principal feed grain in Canadamarker, Europe, and in the northern United States. A finishing diet of barley is one of the defining characteristics of Western Canadian beef used in marketing campaigns.

Alcoholic beverages

A large part of the remainder is used for malting, for which barley is the best suited grain. It is a key ingredient in beer and whisky production. Two-row barley is traditionally used in German and English beers. Six-row barley was traditionally used in US beers, but both varieties are in common usage now. Distilled from green beer, whisky has been made from barley in Ireland and Scotland, while other countries have utilized more diverse sources of alcohol; such as the more common corn, rye and molasses in the USA. The grain name may be applied to the alcohol if it constitutes 51% or more of the ingredients.

Non-alcoholic drinks such as barley water and barley tea (called mugicha in Japanmarker), have been made by boiling barley in water. Barley wine was an alcoholic drink in the 1700's; it was prepared by boiling barley in water, the barley water then was mixed with white wine and other ingredients like borage, lemon and sugar were added. In the 1800's a different barley wine was made prepared from recipes of ancient Greek origin.

Food

Oats, barley, and some products made from them


Barley contains eight essential amino acids. According to a recent study, eating whole grain barley can regulate blood sugar (i.e. reduce blood glucose response to a meal) for up to 10 hours after consumption compared to white or even whole-grain wheat, which has a similar glycemic index. The effect was attributed to colonic fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates. Barley can also be used as a coffee substitute.

Hulled barley (or covered barley) is eaten after removing the inedible, fibrous outer hull. Once removed, it is called dehulled barley (or pot barley or scotch barley). Considered a whole grain, dehulled barley still has its bran and germ making it a nutritious and popular health food. Pearl barley (or pearled barley) is dehulled barley which has been steam processed further to remove the bran. It may be polished, a process known as "pearling". Dehulled or pearl barley may be processed into a variety of barley products, including flour, flakes similar to oatmeal, and grits.

Barley-meal, a wholemeal barley flour which is lighter than wheatmeal but darker in colour, is used in porridge and gruel in Scotlandmarker. Barley-meal gruel is known as Sawiq in the Arab world. With a long history of cultivation in the Middle East, barley is used in a wide range of traditional Arabic, Kurdish, Persian, and Turkish foodstuffs including kashkak, kashk and murri. Barley soup is traditionally eaten during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia. It is also used in soups and stews in Eastern Europe. In Africa, where it is a traditional food plant, it has the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.

The six row variety bere is cultivated in Orkneymarker, Shetlandmarker, Caithnessmarker and the Western Islesmarker in the Scottish Highlands and islands. The grain is used to make beremeal, used locally in bread, biscuits, and the traditional beremeal bannock.

Measurement

Barley grains were used for measurement in England, there being 3 or 4 barleycorn to the inch and 4 or 5 poppy seeds to the barleycorn. The statute definition of an inch was 3 barleycorns, although by the 19th century this had been superseded by standard inch measures. This unit still persists in the shoe sizes which are used in Britain and the USA.

The barleycorn was known as arpa in Turkish, and the feudal system in Turkey employed the term Arpalik, or "barley-money", to refer to a second allowance made to officials to offset the costs of fodder for their horses.

Ornamental

A new stabilized variegated variety of Hordeum vulgare, billed as Hordeum vulgare varigate, has been introduced for cultivation as an ornamental and pot plant for pet cats to nibble on.

Research

The chlorophyll binding a/b protein is missing in albostrains of barley, and they have been used to study plastid development in plants. Researching white streaked strains, plant scientists have gained a greater understanding of reporter gene expression in the production of chloroplast proteins.

Cultural significance

In Islam, the Prophet Muhammad prescribed barley for seven diseases. It was also said to soothe and calm the bowels. Avicenna in his 11th century work The Canon of Medicine wrote of the healing effects of barley water, soup and broth for fevers.

In English folklore, The figure of John Barleycorn in the folksong of the same name is a personification of barley, and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whiskey. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering attacks, death, and indignities that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting. He may be related to older pagan gods such as Mímir or Kvasir.

References

Cited texts



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