In human genetics a detailed knowledge of linkage disequilibrium (LD) is considered a prerequisite for effective population-based, high-resolution gene mapping and cloning. Similar opportunities exist for plants; however, differences in breeding system and population history need to be considered. Here we report a detailed study of localized LD in different populations of an inbreeding crop species. We measured LD between and within four gene loci within the region surrounding the hardness locus in three different gene pools of barley (Hordeum vulgare). We demonstrate that LD extends to at least 212 kb in elite barley cultivars but is rapidly eroded in related inbreeding ancestral populations. Our results indicate that haplotype-based sequence analysis in multiple populations will provide new opportunities to adjust the resolution of association studies in inbreeding crop species.