Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) can be used as a powerful tool for functional genomics studies in plants. With this approach, it is possible to target most genes and downregulate the messenger (m)RNA in a sequence-specific manner. Barley stripe mosaic virus (BSMV) is an established VIGS vector for barley and wheat; however, silencing using this vector is generally transient, with efficient silencing often being confined to the first two or three systemically infected leaves. To investigate this further, part of the barley Phytoene desaturase (PDS) gene was inserted into BSMV and the resulting photobleaching in infected barley plants was used as a reporter for silencing. In addition, downregulation of PDS mRNA was measured by quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Using fragments of PDS ranging from 128 to 584 nucleotides in BSMV, we observed that insert length influenced stability but not efficiency of VIGS. Silencing was transient in most cases; however, the decrease in PDS mRNA levels measured by qRT-PCR began earlier and lasted longer than the photobleaching. Occasionally, silencing persisted and could be transmitted through seed as well as via mechanical inoculation, although large parts of the insert had been lost from the virus vector. The instability of the insert, observed consistently throughout our experiments, offers an explanation for the transient nature of silencing when using BSMV as a VIGS vector.