Barley, cereal plant of the grass family Poaceae and its edible grain. Grown in a variety of environments, barley is the fourth largest grain crop globally, after wheat, rice, and corn. Barley is commonly used in breads, soups, stews, and health products, though it is primarily grown as animal fodder and as a source of malt for alcoholic beverages, especially beer.
Barley comes in two varieties, distinguished by the number of rows of flowers on its flower spike. Six-row barley has its spike notched on opposite sides, with three spikelets at each notch, each containing a small individual flower, or floret, that develops a kernel. Two-row barley has central florets that produce kernels and lateral florets that are normally sterile. Whereas six-row barley has a higher protein content and is more suited for animal feed, two-row barley has a higher sugar content and is thus more commonly used for malt production.