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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

International Researchers Discover Two New Barley Plant Genes

International researchers have discovered two new barley genes, Btr1 and Btr2 – two entirely new genetic discoveries that could expand the field of barley breeding programs.

“This latest genomic information and the potential to introduce as yet unused wild barley traits may offer great new potential in our barley breeding programs,” said Emeritus professor Geoff Fincher from the University of Adelaide, a co-author of a study initiated in Japan by geneticists at Okayama University Institute of Plant Science and Resources, which was led by Professor Takao Komatsuda at the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences.

The team found a genetic formation was linked to the ‘brittleness’ of plants - that variations in cell wall thickness between brittle and non-brittle plant types plays a critical role in whether barley drops its grain when it matures or retains it in its ear. The geneticists found that cell walls were much thicker in non-brittle plants, causing to grain not to fall when the plant dried out.

This ‘brittle’ characteristic benefitted barley as it helped trigger the dispersal of seeds and the spreading of the species.

These discoveries have the potential to open new horizons in barley breeding programs, according to Professor Finch, but also give deeper insight into the widespread domestication, cultivation, and consumption of barley as well.

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