Naked ambition

Barley breeder Amanda Box.

Two new naked barley varieties are in the final stages of pre-release assessment, with the potential to give a strong stimulus to the naked barley industry in Australia.

The lines, bred by Amanda Box at the University of Adelaide, have shown in extensive trials improved yields, disease resistance and other qualities. One of those 'other qualities' is the crucial area of crop establishment.

Coleoptile length makes a difference

"Poor establishment leading to lower yields can be a problem in covered (hulled) barley but is a frequent and more serious problem in naked barley," Ms Box said.

"Initially we thought it was associated with seed embryos being damaged during harvesting and seed cleaning, resulting in poor viability and germination."

Now, following some ground-breaking research, she says the length of the coleoptile also has a major bearing on how well barley establishes. (The coleoptile is the sheath that surrounds the emerging shoot and helps it to grow from the seed to the soil surface. The shorter the coleoptile the greater the risk of establishment difficulties.)

The research also confirmed that damaged grain often results in shorter coleoptile length and less vigour; that the type of seed dressing used can influence coleoptile length, but that coleoptile length did not seem to be related to grain size.

"One of the useful things about the two new lines is that they are different — WI 3107 has a Galleon background and Wl 3152, Skiff," she said. "Both of the new lines provide quite good levels of malt extract, up to 11 percentage points higher than Schooner although their wort beta-glucan levels are higher. However, there are lines in the program that have better malt profiles. "Meanwhile we still have a lot of work to do including genetic marker research to hopefully pinpoint the gene that controls longer coleoptiles and other traits including disease resistance."

The new lines WI 3107:

  • yields about the same as Schooner depending on the season
  • has CCN resistance and moderate resistance to the spot form of net blotch and scald
  • is of short to medium plant height
  • has a coleoptile length longer than most naked barleys and establishes well
  • is moderately susceptible to head loss.
WI 3152:
  • is a semi-dwarf
  • has smaller grain than WI 3107 but quite high yields — approximately 97 per cent of Schooner
  • is resistant to CCN and scald, is moderately resistant to the spot form of net blotch and has established well in trials
  • is resistant to head loss.

Program 1.7.2 Contact: Ms Amanda Box 08 8303 7456

Amanda Box advises there is no handling concern during harvest and storage with naked barley (unlike naked oats).


Canada is the principal producer of naked barley where it is used predominantly in the pig and poultry industries.

In Australia the solution to a successful naked barley industry may come in supplying the human food markets in Asia, particularly Japan. Japanese food products from barley include shochu, a fermented and distilled spirit, and pearled barley for food.