Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan's Crop Development Centre have been working on developing hulless barleys specifically aimed at the swine feed market, at a time when the industry is searching for more efficient, lower-cost alternatives to traditional feed.
"I'd say the most recent varieties are very excellent as far as their disease and agronomic characteristics," said David Gehl, head of the Seed Increase Unit with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. "I think they're quite comparable with our standard covered barleys. They have a farily major advantage to the hulled barleys in that they have much lower fiber content so they've got a higher digestible energy, and I'd say they're a more suitable feed grain for swine, definitely, than the standard barley."
So far, the interest in producing hulless barley has been limited to areas where there are large concentrations of livestock. According to Gehl, most commercial grain growers for now are focusing on premium malting barleys. "It needs demand from the industry before the seed growers will produce the seed," said Gehl.