Todd Weitekamp of Agrible™ is seen here in a field in North Dakota, splitting the stem of a spring barley plant looking for the head. He found it "in the boot," i.e., fully enclosed in the uppermost leaf shaft of the plant. The "boot" stage is just prior to grain head emergence, when the flag leaf sheath still encloses the growing head, and is an important stage for assessing crop health and progress.
A self-professed "corn and soybean guy," Todd was so busy learning that he forgot to take pictures, but he described the developing 6 row barley head as "a lot like a tiny corn ear with silks." Instead of silks for pollination, the sticking-out beard of a barley head is made up of awns.
Unlike corn, with its one or more ears along the stalk of the plant, barley has only one head and one flag leaf per stalk. The flag leaf is the main supplier of carbohydrates to the developing kernels. Todd was blown away by the fact that the farmers are doing everything they can to protect the flag leaf during the critical period of grain filling. And, by the way, if you grow barley and are interested in monitoring your critical periods, check out Morning Farm Report™!