Crop Report 2014: Barley

Sally Howlett, Henry Creissen, Nick Fradgley, ORC, UK

WP1: Seed Health and Quality

     The State Priekuli Cereal Breeding Institute in Latviahave been carrying out field trials to assess grain quality and resistance to biotic and abiotic stress in 27 spring barley cultivars and 47hulless barley cultivars. Genotypes were assessed under high disease pressure with artificial inoculum of Ustilago and Drechsleragramine. The most promising lines, showing enhanced disease resistance, will be evaluated in 2015.Perhaps unsurprisingly barleys originating from that region of Latvia were the highest yielding in their trials.  A 98 RIL population was used to test the molecular marker for Un8 gene which has been identified as a loose smut resistance gene.  This gene was not found to be fully effective as 6 lines containing the gene still showed susceptibility, however 22 lines showed good resistance.
Similar trials have been carried out at the Estonian Crop Research Institute (ECRI) (previouslyJõgeva Plant Breeding Institute). 27 barley lines were tested for quality and yield stability, potential material for organic plant breeding.  50 barley genotypes were tested for disease resistance to barley leaf stripe (Pyrenophoragraminea) and loose smut (Ustilagonuda), which were artificially inoculated. 

      16 hulless (naked) barley varieties, provided by Anders Borgen, were also trialled in small plots in Latvia.  The accession BlåMørdrupcheived the highest yield of 2.66t/ha as well as a high protein content of 17%, and good lodging and disease resistance.

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Estonian barley breeder Ylle Tamm in COBRA diversity trial.

WP2: Breeding for Resilience

     In Norway trials following on from the sustain-NordForsk project will assess an array of around 50 spring barley accessions for environmental plasticity in multi factorial treatments.
Hydroponic experiments at SLU (Sweden) are being analysed at Bioforsk in Norway for root hair morphology.  The hypothesis is that populations will have a greater diversity of root morphologies.

     The role of crop genetic diversity for resilience has also been investigated in Denmark by DTU and Aarhus University.  The response of wheat and barley varieties to fungal diseases and low nutrients stresses is being assessed. They are also attempting to answer the question of how increasingly diverse mixtures and populations can adapt to stressful environments.  DTU also tested 182 spring barley accessions for performance and yield stability in future climate scenarios with elevated C02, 03 and temperature.  Results indicate that stability is not only a result of diversity, but also has to do with the presence of specific genes.  Results have been published in European Journal of Agronomy.
     MTT Agrifood Research Finland have screened a wide range of barley varieties and landraces for Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) as well as resistance to Fusarium andPyronephoraleaf stripe diseases.  Results suggest that modern breeding strategies for increasing yield have also increased NUE and that phosphorus uptake and utilisation follows a similar trend.  Limited resulted were found for resistance to Fusariumhead blight and it is suggested that trials over several sites and years would be required.  European cultivars released over the last 40 years showed improved resistance to net blotch with the frequency of the net type net blotch resistance genes being greater in European varieties and Syrian landraces.  The most promising material for spot type net blotch originated from Jordania. 

WP3: Improving breeding efficiency

Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) was used to examine barley varieties grown under future climates by DTU.  Plants were phenotyped for: number of grains per ear, number of ears per plant, vegetative biomass, harvest index and stability of the production parameters over five treatments.  Genome-wide association analysis was used to identify markers for increased primary production under climate change conditions and reveal possible genes of interest.  A total of 60 marker-trait associations (log10(p) 2.97-5.58) from 44 SNP markers covering 25 LD blocks were identified, e.g. potential sites for exploitation of projected future elevated levels of CO2 were identified on 4H and 7H.  A paper on this has also been submitted to Molecular Breeding.

WP4: Socio-economics and Legislation

Case studies are underway focusing on the use of barley as a speciality food in Italy and Austria and the weed competitiveness in spring barley.

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