Volunteer barley is an annual weed that is extremely competitive with canola and wheat. It is most detrimental when competing at early growth stages of the crop; with most severe cases occurring when volunteer barley emerges before the crop. Volunteer barley is also known to harbour the wheat midge, a disease vector for a complex of three plant viruses, which can greatly affect the overall quality and yield of a desired crop.
Stems grow erect and can range from 60-120 cm tall. Young volunteer barley plants have few leaves, which are alternate and lanceolate. In a mature plant, its leaves can range from 20-25 cm in length and are narrow in shape. The ligules are membranous, auricles (little hooks surrounding the leaf blade) are large and white. Flowers grow in spikes at the terminal end of stems, where its spikelets are sessile (have no stalks). The large claw-like auricles are the most conspicuous feature and are used to distinguish barley from other cereal crops at early growth stages.
Optimal growth conditions
Barley can grow in a number of varying climatic conditions including a wide range of temperatures, moistures and pH values. The species Hordeum vulgare has the highest ecological range of all cereal crops known in agricultural lands, signifying the importance of control in regards to this weed. Barley is also the most salt-tolerant cereal grown in Canada.