An international team including researchers from The University of Western Australia have made a significant breakthrough in the development of drought resistant barley.
Barley is the second largest broadacre crop in Australia after wheat, and is grown on almost four million hectares. It is generally well adapted to dry climates, however with the increased threat of climate variability, further improvement in drought tolerance is a major breeding objective.
The team, made up of researchers from Guangzhou University, China, Kansas State University, USA, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and UWA, studied 287 barley accessions under field conditions to understand how they have evolved and adapted to some of the driest conditions in the world.
The set of 287 barley accessions consisted of 167 landraces, 82 cultivars and 38 wild accessions and was obtained from the ICARDA gene bank, which holds the largest collection of barley genetic resources in the world.
Co-investigator and director of The UWA Institute of Agriculture Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique said the ability of different barley genotypes to adapt to drought stress resides in the genetic diversity in natural populations.
“The exploration of genetic variation related to drought response gives us a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of drought tolerance in barley,” Prof Siddique said.
“We investigated the genetic variation in P5CS1, a key gene associated with drought tolerance in barley, and unravelled five variations that can be used as potential markers for improving drought tolerance in barley.”
This study builds on research the team published in PLoS One in 2012, which first identified P5CS1 as the main drought-responsive gene in barley. P5CS1 is involved in the biosynthesis of proline, an amino acid that is significantly induced by drought stress.
This is the first time genetic variation of this important gene has been characterised in barley and the results provide tremendous potential for developing more robust barley cultivars with increased drought resistance.
The findings were published in the paper Genetic variations of HvP5CS1 and their association with drought tolerance regulated traits in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) in Scientific Reports.
Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique (The UWA Institute of Agriculture; School of Agriculture and Environment)
(+61 8) 6488 7012 / (+61 4) 11 155 396
Diana Boykett (Communications Officer, The UWA Institute of Agriculture) (+61 8) 6488 3756 / (+61 4) 04 152 262