Previous observations suggested that some landraces, primitive cultivars and other barleys originating from the harsh conditions of the Middle East, North Africa and Tibet might serve as interesting sources of adaptation to low-input agriculture. This opportunity was verified in field experiments performed under reduced rates of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilization. Genetic variation in major components of the efficiency of N and P utilization was examined among F2 and F3 generations of crosses between four European female and seven exotic male lines of spring barley. Preponderance of general combining ability effects was found for most efficiency components, suggesting that the characters are mainly controlled by additive gene action. Non-additive effects appeared to be less or non-significant. Under reduced fertilization, hybrid progenies of the Syrian cv. M.Dingo/D.Alla 106 and the Moroccan cv. Moroc 9-75 exhibit an enhanced yielding and the highest capacity to utilize N and P efficiently in grain mass formation. The results proved that the exotic barleys appear to be particularly useful for breeding programs aiming at improved barley adaptation to less favourable fertilization regimes.