Researchers involved in the International Barley Genome Sequencing Consortium, of which ACPFG is a part, have mapped the barley genome, producing a major step forward in barley research.
The project has analysed all of the 32,000 genes in barley with the results published in esteemed journal Nature, the outcome of which could potentially lead to higher yields, improved tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses and more nutritious foods.
The Australian interest was led by scientists from the ACPFG along with researchers from the University of Adelaide and the ARC Centre for Excellence in Plant Cell Walls.
“This new analysis of all the genes in the barley genome is a major step forward for agricultural science and industry,” says Australian research leader and a senior author of the Nature paper, Professor Peter Langridge, CEO of the ACPFG.
“This will greatly accelerate the work in Australia and elsewhere to improve the quality of barley, enhance its disease and pest resistance and, most importantly, support efforts to improve the tolerance of barley to environmental stresses such as heat and drought.”
Barley belongs to the same family as wheat and rye and together they provide about 30% of all calories consumed worldwide.
“Because barley is very closely related to wheat, these results from barley will have a major impact on wheat research,” Professor Langridge says. “Wheat is Australia’s most important crop, and improvements in wheat production globally will be a key to ensuring global food security.”
Twenty-two institutes from nine countries were involved in the initiative.
Barley was first cultivated over 15,000 years ago and is an important crop for Australia with growers producing about 7 million tonnes per year and it is estimated its worth is about $1.3 billion annually to Australian exports. Australia produces about one third of the world’s malting barley.
The team’s Nature paper provides a detailed overview of the functional portions of the barley genome, revealing the order and structure of most of its 32,000 genes. It also includes a detailed analysis of where and when genes are switched on in different tissues and at different stages of development.
The team has described regions of the genome that carry genes important to providing resistance to diseases. This offers scientists the best possible understanding of the crop’s immune system.
The Australian component of this research has been funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the South Australian Government.
Additional reporting by The University of Adelaide.