cultivating drought and salt tolerant barley variety
A new study shows that common barley varieties crossed with wild lines may be better resilient to heat, salt and drought.
Photo: Shutterstock/Joanna Tkaczuk

02.08.2019

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A new line of barley achieves good crop yields even under poor environmental conditions. A research team at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Germany, crossed a common variety with various types of wild barley and planted the new lines in five very different locations. Initial results show that the plants are not only more resistant to heat and drought, but may also achieve higher yields than local varieties.

Barley, along with wheat and rice, is one of the most important cereals for human nutrition. "The demand for food is increasing world-wide, which is why the cultivation of these cereals must generate reliable crop yields. However, climate change is taking its toll on cultivation conditions across the world and plants have to be fertilised and irrigated more frequently," says plant scientist Professor Klaus Pillen from Martin-Luther-University (MLU) in Halle-Leipzig, Germany. His research team has been studying how to improve common cereal varieties for some years. Their approach is to cross wild barley with certain industrially used barley varieties. "Wild barley has adapted to adverse environmental conditions over millions of years. It still has a rich biodiversity today," explains Pillen. The idea is to combine the advantageous properties of both cereals.

For the study, the research team crossed a typical barley variety with 25 types of wild barley. This resulted in 48 genetically different plant lines, which the research team planted at five very different locations around the world: Dundee (UK), Halle (Germany), Al Karak (Jordan), Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Adelaide (Australia).

Each of these places has its own environmental conditions.

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