Why is Barley Not Sprouting?

Wondering why is barley not sprouting, then find out just why the whole barley seed must be intact and unaltered. You will learn whether pearled, hulled, or unhulled barley sprouts. 

Why is my barley not sprouting? I wondered this also. I decided to buy a big 10 gallon batch of barley grain locally, so I could grow barley grass. I buy my hard white wheat grain in bulk locally to grow wheatgrass too. 

I was anxious to grow barley grass as it is an incredible health building food just like the blood cell count building wheatgrass

If you really want to get excited about the nutritious liquid chlorophyll in your barley grass that you will soon be growing from your barley sprouts, then watch this cool living “green blood” circulating throughout this plant cells video.

Well, my purchased whole hard white wheat grain grew into beautiful wheatgrass. In fact, I use this same wheat grain to make homemade bread from soaked grains

Unfortunately though, my newly purchased barley would not sprout for the life of me. 

I had gone to my local grain supplier and told the gal there I would like to grow barley grass from the barley seed, just like I grow wheatgrass from the wheat grain – which I explain in my How to Grow Glorious Wheatgrass at Home Tutorial

I asked which barley I should buy. Should I buy their pearled barley or their hulled barley, which were the two barley grains they sold, I asked. I was told the pearled barley is missing its hull and it is not all intact. Whereas, the hulled barley is the whole barley seed, with the whole hull attached. Really? 

OK, so off I went to soak and then sprout my barley seed. Well, time after time, I could not get the barley to sprout. I called back the local grain company and they had no idea why it would not germinate. Alright, I thought surely something must have been done to the barley seed affecting its ability to sprout. 

My “Why is my barley not sprouting?” journey continued.

Well, I contacted the distributors who sold the grain to my local grain shop. “Why is my hulled barley not sprouting,” I asked them. They also had no idea why my barley would not sprout. 

They assured me it was organic, therefore, it had not been treated with Fungicides (seed treatment) that are sometimes used on conventional seeds to help prevent seedling disease. Well, at least I was happy to hear that. 

Not one to give up and frustrated with this large 10 gallon bucket of barley grain I now possessed that would not sprout, I decided to contact a barley expert in the northern United States. 

I asked the barley expert, “Why is my barley not sprouting?” He told me to send up a sample of the barley and he would analyze it in their lab to find out. 

I sent up a little bag of my disappointing barley where the barley expert would analyze it to let me know why it was not sprouting. Surely something has to be wrong with my barley, I thought. 

Well, I got the answer to, “Why is my barley not sprouting?” Analyzation of my barley confirmed that sure enough my 10 gallons of barley were “hulled barley.” The barley expert and I had both believed this to be true, according to the package labeling, but just wanted to verify. 

OK, but hulled barley should sprout because that is what I was told, right?… 

Hulled Barley Won’t Sprout

hulled barleyHulled barley won’t sprout. Hulled barley means the hull has been taken off. Hulled barley does not mean the hull is still on the barley. The barley must be unhulled to sprout. To the left is what hulled barley looks like. 

I guess that is not a real well known fact. Because not only did the local grain supplier not know that hulled barley means hull removed not hull intact and that it therefore won’t sprout, but neither did the barley grain suppliers in California. And surely, neither did I. I am sure many have experienced this barley not sprouting problem. 

unhulled barleyTo the left is what unhulled, whole barley seed that is perfectly equipped to sprout looks like – with embryo completely intact ready to burst out and sprout. 

OK, so just why won’t hulled barley sprout? Well, according to the very helpful barley expert who holds his PhD in Cereal Science…

 Only Unhulled Barley Will Sprout

When barley is pearled or hulled, an abrasive mill (pearler) is used to remove the outer coverings of the grain (seed). 

With hulled barley, the “husk” is removed. Hulled barley is also sometimes called “blocked barley”. Barley retains the husk at harvest, whereas with wheat the husk would thresh free at harvest. 

The husk is very high in silica (as in sand) and it makes the whole barley seed somewhat gritty and abrasive…not real palatable. 

pearled-barleyTo the left is a picture of pearled barley. With pearled barley, both the husk and portions of the bran are removed. This leaves mainly the endosperm (starch and protein). 

Hulled barley would be higher in insoluble fiber because there is still some bran. Pearled barley is lower in insoluble fiber because the bran is removed. 

Both pearled and hulled barley are a pretty good food source of soluble fiber. The soluble fiber in barley comes from beta-glucans, and these are found in the endosperm along with starch and protein. Barley actually has a “heart healthy” claim or endorsement from the FDA…just like oats. This is because of the beta-glucans. 

But going back to the barley to answer the “Why is my barley not sprouting?” question. The hulled barley will not sprout or germinate because it has no embryo (germ). The embryo is broken off in the milling process. This is true of both the hulled and the pearled barley. That’s right, hulled barley and pearled barley will not sprout

To be able to germinate or sprout the barley, you must use the whole barley seed. It cannot be pearled barley or hulled barley. Since the seed has been altered and its embryo removed, no sprouting will occur. 

This is an easy mistake to make. The consumer never actually sees barley seed. Again, this is because the husk is removed to make it edible. I think if you asked the average person what barley grain looked like, they would pick pearled barley. That’s because they see it in soup or in the box of Quaker barley one finds in the supermarket. 

Now that I solved my barley not sprouting problem, looks like I will be making lots of barley soup with my 10 gallon bucket of hulled barley grains! 

OK now, to solve your barley not sprouting situation, just buy the whole, organic, unhulled, complete in its entirety, barley seed.

Buy Organic Unhulled Barley Seed

Here is a great purchasing source for the real McKoy, the Organic Sprouting Barley Grass Seed – 9 lbs.that will sprout beautifully each and every time. 

If you want either a smaller or larger bag of organic barley seed, go to my Amazon store to see the different options for barley grass growing supplies and different amounts of barley seed

If you get tired of growing your barley grass, it is always good to have a stash of the best BarleyLife barley grass powder in your cupboard. The BarleyLife is very potent and is doing wonders for people’s health also. Check out this BarleyLife testimonial in which one woman gives credit to it for overcoming Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer. 



  1. Hi I have had unhulled barley in the trays now for 3 days and there is no noticible growth at all. It is outside in the shade house, but nothing. I am watering it 3 times a day. Any suggestions?

  2. I am a grower of barley grass for sprouting in Phoenix, Arizona. I have been sprouting this grass for my small business for 17 years with great success. Recently, I have received a lot of untreated beardless whole hull seed that would not germinate…. well let’s say the germination rate was 2%. This almost put me out of business! The supplier advised me that they guarantee USDA food grade seed, safe for grain for your heard however they do not guarantee germination. I am very confused! I am purchasing seed that should sprout, but it doesn’t. Is it because the seed was not properly stored, or more than 2-years-old, thus its germination life has expired?

    I have been in touch with the Grain and Research Council as well as the Department of Agriculture, and if you want to be guaranteed sproutable seed it needs to be certified and tested for a germination rate. How many years or under what conditions does that germination expire? Please help! Thank you for your consideration!

    • Oh my goodness! I am wondering if you have always bought from that vendor before – and the whole barley seed they sent you before (through the years) sprouted fine? If that is so, are they answering your questions as to why they think their whole barley seed is no longer sprouting?

      I know with the wheatgrass, that the wheat seed will continue to sprout well for 2 years, maybe longer if stored well. I have used grain that was over a few years old and it still grew wonderful wheatgrass.

      I wish I could tell you what went wrong, but they should know that best.

      If I were you, I would try to get answers from the vendor, find out if they could possibly take back the seed (not sure how much you bought or what their policy is) or if they could reimburse you for non-sprouting seed. If the whole barley seed they are sending you does not sprout, you will need to find another vendor that sells high quality sprouting barley seed.

      I am really sorry about this non-sprouting barley seed Krysti. I hope this situation is remedied, Eryn

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