Thursday, 14 December 2017


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A 10-nation scientific consortium has reported the first high- quality genome sequence of barley, a development that will assist crop breeders in developing more resilient barley varieties, suited to the requirements of the brewing, distilling, food and feed industries.

The UK team behind the research was led by Professor Robbie Waugh, of Scotland’s James Hutton Institute and the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Dundee. They worked over a decade with colleagues from the International Barley Genome Sequencing Consortium (IBSC), Earlham Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute.

The genome sequence of a crop reveals detailed information on the location, structure and function of its genes, useful knowledge for the breeding needed to boost crop improvement. Featuring data on more than 39,000 genes, the barley genome is almost two times larger than the human genome, and 80% of it is composed of highly complex repeat structures. However, recent advances in sequencing and computational technology have finally enabled scientists to unravel the genome of barley.

Professor Waugh said: “Armed with this information, breeders and scientists will be much better placed to deal with the challenge of effectively addressing the food security agenda under the constraints of a rapidly changing environment. The genome provides a better understanding of malting genes, as well as the processes of domestication, local adaptation and modern breeding that have been critical in shaping current varieties.”

Dr Matt Clark, Head of Technology Development at Earlham Institute, added: “The tools and skills we developed while working on the challenging barley genome led to this success, but they have also helped us on smaller genomes e.g. rice, and potatoes, and much larger ones such as bread wheat which is derived from the hybridization of three barley-like genomes.”

Domesticated between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago in the Middle East, barley has since spread across all temperate regions to become the world’s fourth most important cereal crop, both regarding area of cultivation and in quantity of grain produced. Barley is the second most important crop in UK agriculture.

Related articles:

India to help crack the wheat genome

Barley Bread to Tackle Obesity, Claims Study 

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