Waterlogging tolerant barley breakthrough

August 31, 2017

Better barley: Gene discovery will boost crop productivity

New barley varieties with greater waterlogging tolerance are on the horizon, after a scientific breakthrough in genetic research identified a major contributing gene.

Barley is particularly susceptible to waterlogging, which in wet seasons can cause yield losses of 20 to 50 per cent and quality penalties, such as small grain.

The Western Barley Genetics Alliance, a partnership between Murdoch University and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, was a major contributor to the research, assisted by funds from the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Alliance Director, Murdoch University Professor Chengdao Li, said the development of new waterlogging tolerant varieties would enable barley growers to boost their productivity and profitability.

Professor Li, from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, said the research results clearly indicated the superior performance of the lines with the new waterlogging tolerant gene.

“The varieties with the waterlogging tolerance gene in our trials achieved yields ranging from 101 to 154 per cent of the benchmark, demonstrating their ability to perform under waterlogging conditions,” Professor Li said.

The Western Barley Genetics Alliance teamed up with the University of Tasmania, Zhejiang University and Yangzhou University to screen barley germplasm from around the world to identify lines that were more tolerant to waterlogging.

The team then used molecular marker-assisted technology to identify four genes that control tolerance to waterlogging, including one major gene.

Using the recently completed Barley Reference Genome Sequence, to which the Alliance contributed, new molecular markers were developed to target the waterlogging tolerance genes.

This gene was then incorporated into five barley varieties to compare their performance to the benchmark variety Hindmarsh.

The new lines were tested last year under natural waterlogged conditions in a restricted field trial at Katanning, in the Great Southern region.

More field trials will continue this year at locations at Albany, in the Great Southern, and west of Williams, in the Wheatbelt.

The information from the research is provided to the commercial sector to develop new, improved barley varieties, a process that takes five to 10 years.


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