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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Facts


  • Barley is the fourth most important grain crop in the United States.
  • Barley is one of the most ancient of cultivated grains. It was first discovered growing as a wild grass throughout Asia thousands of years ago. It was later cultivated and consumed by the Chinese as one of their first commercially-grown commodities.
  • Grains found in pits and pyramids in Egypt indicate that barley was cultivated there more than 5000 years ago. The most ancient glyph or pictograph found for barley is dated about 3000 B.C. Numerous references to barley are found in the earliest Egyptian and Sumerian writings.
  • Egyptians and Greeks in ancient times consumed barley for medicinal purposes as well as for a nourishing food source.
  • Christopher Columbus may have brought barley to North America on his journey to the New World.
  • Half or more of the barley grown in the United States is used for livestock feed. As feed it is nearly equal in nutritive value to kernel corn. It is especially valuable as hog feed, giving desirable portions of firm fat and lean meat. The entire kernel is used in feed, generally after grinding or steam rolling. Malt sprouts from malting as well as brewers grain--byproducts of brewing--are also valuable livestock feeds. Barley is also grown as a hay crop in some areas.
  • Most barley for human food is made into pearl barley. Barley flour, flakes, and grits may be found in health food and specialty stores.
  • Barley is also used as a commercial ingredient in prepared foods such as breakfast cereals, soups, pilaf mixes, breads, cookies, crackers and snack bars.
  • Barley malt flour is an ingredient in nearly all baking flours that are used to make breads and other baked goods