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University of Minnesota Extension

Fertilizing barley in Minnesota

Closeup of barley seed heads.

In Minnesota, barley is grown for malting as well as a feed grain. Yields of this crop continue to increase and proper fertilizer use is key to continue this improvement.

The use of barley in the brewing industry is well known and, when sold for malting purposes, barley is a very stable crop in Minnesota's economy.

The importance of barley as a feed grain is often overlooked. Yet, this crop can easily substitute for corn in feeding rations. This substitution is especially important where soils are sandy. Sandy soils have a low water-holding capacity and drought frequently limits corn yields.

Nitrogen guidelines

The amount of nitrogen (N) fertilizer applied can have a major impact on yield as well as the protein percentage in the grain. For most crops, there is an advantage to having high protein content.

High protein concentrations in the grain, however, are not desirable when barley is grown for malting purposes. The brewing industry prefers a grain protein content of 12.5% or less. Special attention should be given to N management so that grain yield is maximized while maintaining a grain protein content below 12.5%.


Phosphate and potash


Other nutrients

Research throughout Minnesota has shown magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), boron (B), zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), and manganese (Mn) are not needed in fertilizer programs for barley production. Minnesota’s soils can supply ample amounts of these nutrients for crop production.


Authors: Daniel E. Kaiser, Extension nutrient management specialist, Jochum J. Wiersma, Extension small grains specialist, and Keith Piotrowski, director of the soil testing laboratory

Reviewed in 2023

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