University of Queensland scientists work to make barley drought-proof


Scientists from the University of Queensland (UQ) are developing ways to make barley drought-proof.

Image: Free Digital Photos user Stoonn
Image: Free Digital Photos user Stoonn

According to a news release from UQ, researchers from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) have identified ‘stay-green’ characteristics in several types of barley.

The discovery could help breeders develop barley that is less susceptible to the effects of environmental fluctuation such as drought and heat. This will then prove to be beneficial for beer manufacturers as better barley would produce a better brew and ultimately, better beer.

QAAFI’s Dr Glen Fox said no one had seriously considered the stay-green traits of barley until now. According to him sorghum breeders have been taking advantage of stay-green characteristics in order to improve yields and barley possesses a similar trait that could help growers respond to the effects of climate change.

“Sorghum and barley are distantly related plants which both evolved in the warmer parts of the world, so if we can help growers produce barley that is more in-tune with what industry wants, we’re well on the way to improving productivity and profitability,” Dr Fox said.

“Each year Australia produces about two million tonnes of malting barley, and a good proportion of that is exported throughout Asia and the Pacific.”

“Our team’s research has shown that normal grain development and starch composition can survive significant water and heat stress in selected barley lines.”

The study, which is published in the Journal of Cereal Science, reports that initial studies have demonstrated that stay-green traits appear to be evident in barley, although more precise and detailed experiments would have to be conducted to better understand the genes that control this effect.