grain beards

What is a Grain Beard?

Small grains like wheat, triticale, rye and barley have a beard. A beard is a long bristly spike that protrudes from the seed shell and protects the seed kernel. Oats do not have a beard.

But not all varieties of wheat, triticale, rye, and barley have a beard. There are varieties that are desired and have been selected for being awnletted (short beard or spike) or completely beardless (no beard at all).

The barley variety at right has a large grain beard

beardless grain

Beardless Grain

Beardless varieties have no beard at all. Beardless varieties are generally most suitable for forage because they produce more plant material and less seed. Beardless varieties are not necessarily genetically modified. In fact, they very seldom are. Rather, specimens that do not naturally grow a beard are selected and bred together to produce a crop with no beard and high forage value.

Some varieties have a short beard or 'spike' and are referred to as 'awnletted'.

The wheat pictured at left is completely beardless

Beardless for forage

When are beardless varieties preferred?

As a general rule there are two reasons to select a beardless variety;

1. The beards on traditional milling wheat and triticale can be detrimental to livestock. Beards are bristly and sharp and cause a host of mouth, throat and respiratory problems.

2. Beardless varieties are generally most suitable for forage because they produce more plant material and less seed.

Right: Our Valor Barley in a production field in Idaho. Valor is a fall beardless forage variety.

Valor Barley
When it matters

When beards don't matter

If you green chop or silage your grain, then the beards break down and are no longer an issue and you can choose any variety that suits your goals.

If you are raising a grain crop then beards don't matter. In fact, bearded varieties often have higher bushel per acre yield than beardless varieties. This is because beardless varieties are often selected for forage yield (big leaves and green matter), not seed yield (maximum grain weight).

Motley Triticale

Motley is our flagship triticale. It is a facultative triticale, meaning it can be planted spring or fall. It is 100% beardless.

Ray Wheat

One of our Ray Wheat production fields. Ray is a beardless hard red winter wheat. It is a cross between Willow Creek and Yellowstone, and is a dual-purpose forage/milling wheat.

Flex 719 Triticale

Flex 719 is an example of an "awnletted" triticale. It has a short beard or spike – not a full beard, but not completely beardless, either. These are sometimes called a 'dwarf beard'.