The objective of this study was to assess the performance of farmers’ and improved varieties of barley for yield and yield related traits and seed quality attribute in North Shewa Zone of Oromiya Region, Ethiopian. Seven farmer’s varieties (FVs) and three improved varieties (MVs) of barley were tested at three locations in Degem Wereda in randomized complete block design (RCBD) design with three replications during 2010 Meher (June-September) cropping season. Barley seed obtained from experimental plots was used to make seed quality analysis such as physical purity, germination, vigour and health as per ISTA procedures and methods (1996). Garbuu Ggurracha was superior in yield potential and seed quality traits for meher season. Damoy is suitable variety for belg season production due to its early maturity and low moisture requirement. Statistically, grain yield was significant (p<0.01) variation was observed among varieties tested for important quantitative traits across locations indicating the presence of variability among genotypes. The analytical purity of seed samples collected from field experiment was ≥ 98.17% which was greater than the national seed standard (85%). At harvest, barley seed exhibited dormancy and germinate poorly. Significant differences in seed germination were observed between the first (after one month) and the second (after four months) test which could be attributed to thick hull character which may warrant further investigation. Sixteen different fungi genera were identified from the seed samples among which eight are known to be seed transmitted and the rest causing seed deterioration. In general significant different was observed among varieties for different pathogen infection. This study may indicate greater yield response through direct selection in barley landraces. This may be the nature of FVs’ with better adaptive traits to variable environmental factors which has paramount importance for the local farmers to reduce risk. Minimum improvement for adopting early maturing varieties in an area of short rainfall to attain food security is vital. Attention should be given for conservation and improvement of farmers’ varieties.
Key words: Barley seed, germination, vigour, food barley.