Oregon State University (OSU) has developed the first winter hooded barley that produces high yields of forage, thrives in the Northwest and resists a fungus known as stripe rust.

Until now, no single hooded winter barley variety could do those three things, says Pat Hayes, head of OSU's barley breeding program. Researchers accomplished the feat by crossing two successful varieties.

The new one, Verdant, is best-suited for forage for livestock because it produces abundant leafy matter. In field experiments, it yielded up to 10 tons of forage per acre and a maximum of 2.7 tons of grain per acre, he says.

OSU has exclusively licensed Verdant for five years to Tri-State Seed Co., a wholesale and retail
seed marketer in Connell, WA. It’s a cross between Kold and Hoody winter barley varieties. Hoody is the only hooded winter barley that can grow in the Pacific Northwest but it’s susceptible to stripe rust. Kold, on the other hand, resists the disease and grows in the Northwest but doesn't have high yields of grain and forage.

When compared with Hoody, Verdant produced more grain and forage and had heavier kernels and better resistance to stripe rust, Hayes reports. Stripe rust causes rows of yellowish-orange pustules on the leaves. Under severe conditions, pustules may form in the spike, which houses the kernels. The pathogen, which thrives in cool, wet weather, can significantly reduce yields and the quality of the grain.

Hooded barley varieties are used primarily for forage. Planted in fall, winter varieties are harvested for forage in mid-June and for grain in mid-July. These early harvest times may allow for planting a crop of a cool-season vegetable in some environments, Hayes says.

It took 10 years to bring Verdant to market. Field trials took place from 2001-04 at OSU's Hyslop Farm near Corvallis. With funding from the Oregon Grains Commission, researchers kept the crosses that had hooded spikes and high bushel weight, resisted stripe rust and scald (a disease caused by another fungus) and were resistant to lodging. They then planted these lines at OSU research plots in other parts of Oregon. Verdant stood out and was later grown on plots in southern Idaho, northern California and parts of Utah. Washington State University, the University of Idaho and USDA also helped grow and test the variety.