Barley occupies 0.46% of the total cropped area, 0.62% of the food grains and 0.76% of the cereals in the country. Similarly it contributes 0.86 of the total production of cereals and 0.81% of the food grains in India.
There has been steady shortfall in the area and production of the crop since 1960-61 onward with the beginning of the Green Revolution. Its area has decreased from 32.23 lakh hectares in 1960-61 to 6.93 lakh hectares in 2002-03 recording an average annual decline of 1.87 percent. Similarly the production has fallen down from 28.66 lakh tones in 1960-61 to 14.06 lakh tones in 2002-03 at an average annual rate of 1.21 per cent. This decline is mainly due to the transfer of the barley area to wheat cultivation.
One way to classify barley is to identify it by whether there are two, four or six rows of grains on the head (10, 12, 13). Six row barley can produce 25-60 grains, while two-row barley produces 25-30 grains (4). Four-row barley is actually a loose six-row barley (4), so many sources only differentiate between two- and six-row varieties. Wild barley is two-row (12), and most cultivated barley is of the six-row type.
Barley is grown for many purposes, but the majority of all barley is used for animal feed, human consumption, or malting (6, 10, 12, 13). High protein barleys are generally valued for food and feeding, and starchy barley for malting. Barley is a cereal grain used in large proportions as an animal feed, while the rest is used as a malt in whiskey or sugar as well as health food. Barley belongs to the family of 'poaceae', a plant commonly known as grass. It is available in a variety of forms like whole barley, hulled barley, pearled barley as well as barley flakes. It is a rich source of metals like zinc, copper, phosphorous, etc. as well as other nutrients like calcium and iron.
Barley was considered to be the first ever cereal crop to be domesticated. Along with emmer wheat, a low yielding awned wheat, barley was a staple cereal crop of ancient Egypt, dating back to as far as 5000 BC and even earlier than that. At that time the main use of barley was limited to making beer and bread. From eating, the importance of barley even extended to having religious significance in Europe and ritual significance in ancient Greece.