Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a globally important crop adapted to marginal and stress-prone environments and is considered to be a risk-avoidance crop by poor farmers. It is the fourth most important cereal crop in the world after wheat, maize and rice and has a global production of more than 150 million tonnes produced from about 60 million hectares.

The area cultivated is now about the same as it was in the 1960s, but yield has doubled from 1.3 t/ha to 2.6 t/ha. The main barley growing countries are Russia, Canada and Germany.