The development of new and improved barley varieties is set to be accelerated, after the complete barley genome was recently mapped by an international alliance.
Alliance director and Murdoch University’s Professor Chengdao Li said the WA-based group was among the elite group of international scientists who mapped two of the seven barley chromosomes.
Prof Li said the barley genome map pinpointed genetic information, from which molecular markers and genomic breeding tools could be developed to enhance future barley varieties.
‘‘Mapping the barley genome effectively provides a ‘dictionary’ from which genetic ‘words’ and ‘sentences’ can be produced that identify the genes that control traits, such as yield, adaption to climate, quality and pest and disease tolerance,’’ he said.
Dr Li said the map was a great achievement, especially given its complexity.
‘‘Cereal crops, including bread wheat, durum, barley and rye, have some of the most complex genetic histories among the world’s cultivated species,’’ he said.
‘‘Barley is the first crop in this tribe to be sequenced in such detail. To put the research into perspective, the barley genome is 12 times larger than the rice genome and more complex.’’
The alliance worked in partnership with scientists from 10 countries participating in the Barley Genome Sequence Consortium, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Finland, Denmark, China, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland.
‘‘This research was so large and complex that no single country had the capacity to complete it so an international collaboration was essential,’’ Professor Li said.
‘‘The consortium of scientists integrated next generation sequencing, chromosome conformation capture sequencing, nanotechnology and super-computing to map the barley genome and assemble the largest crop genome so far.’’
Professor Li said the new barley genome map was underpinned by high-quality research standards.
‘‘We have developed the ‘gold standard’ of genetic maps, resulting in greater precision and more detailed data, which will provide plant breeders and researchers with confidence to manipulate genes to develop the next generation of barley varieties,’’ he said.
In the interests of furthering global science, the consortium intends to make the barley genome information publicly available.
Westen Australia Department of Agriculture’s Grains Research and Development executive director Mark Sweetingham applauded the alliance scientists for their contribution to industry productivity and profitability, as well as enhancing global food security.
The Western Barley Genetics Alliance, a partnership between the Department of Agriculture and Food and Murdoch University, was a major contributor to the research, assisted by funds from the Grains Research and Development Corporation.