To investigate the application of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers in barley, 96 primer combinations were used to generate AFLP patterns with two barley lines, L94 and Vada. With seven primer combinations, only a few intense bands were obtained, probably derived from repeated sequences. With the majority of the remaining 89 primer combinations, on average about 120 amplification products were generated, and the polymorphism rate between the two lines was generally over 18%. Based on the number of amplified products and the polymorphism rate, the 48 best primer combinations were selected and tested on 16 barley lines, again including L94 and Vada. Using a subset of 24 primer combinations 2188 clearly visible bands within the range from 80 to 510 bp were generated; 55% of these showed some degree of polymorphism among the 16 lines. L94 versus Vada showed the highest polymorphism rate (29%) and Proctor versus Nudinka yielded the lowest (12%). The polymorphism rates per primer combination showed little dependence on the barley lines used. Hence the most efficient and informative primer combinations identified for a given pair of lines turned out to be highly efficient when applied to others. Generally, more than 100 common markers (possibly locus specific) among populations or crosses were easily identified by comparing 48 AFLP profiles of the parent lines. The existence of such a large number of markers common to populations will facilitate the merging of molecular marker data and other genetic data into one integrated genetic map of barley.