As early farming spread from the Fertile Crescent in the Near East around 10,000 years before the present1, domesticated crops encountered considerable ecological and environmental change. Spring-sown crops that flowered without the need for an extended period of cold to promote flowering and day length–insensitive crops able to exploit the longer, cooler days of higher latitudes emerged and became established. To investigate the genetic consequences of adaptation to these new environments, we identified signatures of divergent selection in the highly differentiated modern-day spring and winter barleys. In one genetically divergent region, we identify a natural variant of the barley homolog of Antirrhinum CENTRORADIALIS2 (HvCEN) as a contributor to successful environmental adaptation. The distribution of HvCEN alleles in a large collection of wild and landrace accessions indicates that this involved selection and enrichment of preexisting genetic variants rather than the acquisition of mutations after domestication.