DNA discovery key to drought resistant crops

May 31, 2012
DNA discovery key to drought resistant crops

(Phys.org) -- Scientists have pinpointed the ‘stay green' DNA in barley in new research that may help farmers to grow better crops in areas of drought, heat and salinity.

In an international collaboration, researchers studied a set of 292 barley accessions from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Aleppo, Syria. The accessions were collected from 35 countries in six geographic regions including Africa, Middle East Asia, North East Asia, Arabian Peninsula, Australia and Europe.

The collaboration was between The University of Western Australia's Institute of Agriculture and researchers in China, the United States and Syria.

Using a molecular biology technique known as EcoTILLING that allows direct identification of natural mutations in specific genes, the researchers were able to identify 23 sequence variations, 17 of which occurred in the gene coding region.  Two of the 17 DNA sequence variations in the coding region are predicted to cause malfunctioned proteins, which will cause change in barley phenotypic traits.

By gaining a better understanding of the genetic variation in genes that encode the light harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding proteins (LHCP), plant breeders will be able to use these DNA sequence variations as DNA markers to improve the ‘stay green' efficiency of plants.

The study found that samples from Middle East Asia had the highest genetic diversity in genes that encode the LHCP. The barley species Hordeum spontaneum showed greater genetic diversity than Hordeum vulgare, leading researchers to conclude that crossing and transfer of genes from Middle East Asian accession into cultivated barley will enhance genetic diversity.

Barley is an important cereal crop grown during winter/spring in dryland areas of the world for both food and feed.

In Western Australia, barley is the second most important cereal crop after wheat. Some 85 per cent of WA barley production is exported playing an important part in the international barley trade where it provides around one sixth of the worlds' traded malting barley.

Future research will use the latest study Allelic Variations of a Light Harvesting Chlorophyll A/B-Binding Protein Gene (Lhcb 1) Associated with Agronomic Traits in Barley published by PLoS One online to focus more closely on the drought resistance of barley lines.

UWA has Memoranda of Understanding with Guangzhou University (GZU) and ICARDA and actively collaborates with both institutions.

The ICARDA gene bank holds the largest collection of barley genetic resources in the world, including wild types and land races with tremendous potential for genetic variation in resistance to drought and heat stress.

Explore further: Heaven scent: Finding may help restore fragrance to roses

Related Stories

Newly Cloned Gene Key to More Adaptable Wheat Varieties

Dec 05, 2006

In a research discovery that has practical implications for improving wheat varieties, a team of scientists at the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have cloned a gene that controls the ...

'Super-spaghetti' with heart-healthy label now possible

Sep 14, 2011

Consumers could soon see packages of pasta labeled "good source of dietary fiber" and "may reduce the risk of heart disease" thanks to the development of a new genre of pasta made with barley—a grain famous for giving ...

Recommended for you

Can gene editing provide a solution to global hunger?

1 hour ago

According to the World Food Program, some 795 million people – one in nine people on earth – don't have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That will only get worse with the next global food cris ...

Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

Jul 02, 2015

French scientists published evidence Thursday of pesticide contamination of lab rat feed which they said discredited historic toxicity studies, though commentators questioned the analysis.

International consortium to study plant fertility evolution

Jul 02, 2015

Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, has joined a consortium of seven other researchers in four European countries to develop the fullest understanding yet of how fertilization evolved in flowering plants. The research, ...

Making the biofuels process safer for microbes

Jul 02, 2015

A team of investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University have created a process for making the work environment less toxic—literally—for the organisms that do the heavy ...

Why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public

Jul 02, 2015

Whether commanding the attention of rock star Neil Young or apparently being supported by the former head of Greenpeace, genetically modified food is almost always in the news – and often in a negative ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.