Hull-less barley is very good stock for ethanol production, because the hull begins to separate from the plant as it nears harvest, providing a "cleaner" final grain product.

For livestock feed, hull-less varieties have been found to have residual hull percentages as low as 3 percent. Hulless barley has the advantage, because more usable tonnage of the cereal grain can be harvested without the hull, yielding a crop that will provide more desired nutrients to animals.

Doyce was the first hull-less variety released by Carl Griffey’s breeding program at Virginia Tech. All breeding lines in the hull-less variety breeding program are classified as hull-less types, have varying degrees of threshability due to multiple genes for hull attachment, which can be expressed or masked during the threshing process. The hull-less trait is controlled by a single recessive gene, whereas, multiple genes govern hull attachment.

The problem for farmers is they often have to slow down the combine in order to get the hull-less grains. A typical harvesting speed for hulled barley is 4-5 miles per hour, while in some cases with hull-less varieties, Doyce in particular, the combine has to be slowed to 2-3 mph.

At a cylinder speed of 800, test weights for Doyce averages about 50-51 pounds. With two of the new varieties (Eve and Dan) test weights go up to the mid-50s for Eve and 60 for Dan.

Virginia Tech Researcher Mark Vaughn says the new hull-less barley varieties and several breeding lines are advanced well beyond Doyce. “Our yields are higher and threshability is higher now,” he says. Vaughn, who is headquartered at the Eastern Virginia Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Warsaw, Va., adds that all three varieties will produce 60 pound test weights, but not at higher cylinder speed settings on the thresher.

Eve was the second hull-less variety released by the Virginia Tech program. Typically, it yields a little better than Doyce, has slightly higher test weights and threshes better than Doyce.

Eve was released by the Virginia Agricultural Experimental Station in February 2007. It is moderately early heading, has long awns, has very good straw strength, high test weight, and plump seed.  

On average, head emergence of Eve is two or more days earlier than ‘Doyce’. Average plant height of Eve (34 inches) is 1-inch taller than Doyce. 

“The problem with Eve, Vaughn says, is the heads stay with the grain — they don’t go out the back, not even with a commercial combine. The test weight is high and the seed are clean, but the heads stay in the combine.”