One of the more interesting combinations of crops for ethanol is year around production of corn and hulless barley.

Hulless barley varieties produce higher starch content per acre than corn and could fit ideally into a double-crop system. Virginia Tech released the first winter hulless barley cultivar, "Doyce," in 2003.

Doyce, is a hulless barley that is high yielding, mid-season maturity, and short in stature with stiff straw. Doyce provides winter barley producers and end users with a new value-added crop having grain that is lower in fiber, higher in starch and metabolizable energy than traditional hulled winter barley, and having potential for use in feed, food and ethanol production.

The high starch component makes hulless varieties highly desirable for conversion to ethanol.

The first Southeastern ethanol plant, now under construction in Aurora, N.C., faces a challenge of supplying enough corn year-around to produce the desired 108 million gallons of ethanol a year. North Carolina is a corn-deficient state, creating an instant demand for an alternative source of starch for ethanol production.

As the fuel crisis continues to grow in the U.S., it is likely the interest in alternative fuel crops will also escalate. With corn for ethanol leading the way, the need for a winter crop, like hulless barley, is going to be high.

e-mail: rroberson@farmpress.com