Introgressing resilience and resource use efficiency traits from Scots bere to elite barley lines (REBEL) (PhD)

Project number
Lead partner
James Hutton Institute
Start Date
October 2015
End date
September 2018
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds funding
£54,000 (Total project cost £93,000)

The challenge

Elite cereal varieties are responsive to high levels of agronomic inputs including pesticides and artificial fertilisers. There is some evidence that on farm yields are reaching a plateau and there is little evidence of an overall increase in abiotic and biotic stress tolerance.

Traits with potential utility in reduced input agriculture or that performed on marginal lands are characteristically expressed in local landraces. Scots beres are old traditional landrace forms of barley found in the Scottish islands, including populations on the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland. They are adapted to, and yield well under, marginal conditions with impoverished soils. Bere barley has biotic and abiotic stress-tolerance genes and nutritional genes that enable them to efficiently and resiliently yield under low input and stress-prone environments. Some of these genes can be identified and expressed in elite backgrounds to improve the stress tolerance and nutrient use efficiency of cultivars in high productivity barley production.

The project

The overall aim of the proposed project is to assess and genetically characterise bere barley germplasm collections for abiotic and biotic stress tolerance, and to explore the potential of these collections as a resource for improving yield stability and reduced inputs in elite barley.

Specific objectives include:
1.Identify abiotic stress tolerant (salt, phosphate deficiency and micronutrient deficiency/toxicity) and disease resistant (rhynchosporium, powdery mildew) bere accessions from contrasting field sites.
2.Assess introgressed populations derived from bere x elite crosses for disease resistance and abiotic stress tolerance, yield and quality in glasshouse screens.
3.Assess selected introgressed lines on contrasting marginal sites and high yield potential sites.
4.Use individual original accessions and introgressed lines to characterise the physiological mechanisms involved in abiotic stress tolerance and disease resistance in the beres.
5. Identify molecular markers associated with key traits of commercial interest.

The benefits

The project will generate results that are of direct benefit to UK barley breeders. This will include information on lines that carry specific valuable traits that can be incorporated into new cultivars with improved yield resilience. Marker trait associations generated in the project will allow breeders to increase the efficiency of the initial introgression of these beneficial traits. In addition, trials under contrasting field conditions, will allow breeders to assess the likely performance of varieties carrying these traits under a wide range of land types and growing conditions. As well as direct industrial benefits, the comparison between elite barley collections and locally adapted landraces will provide important information about the basic biology of nutrient uptake and use in barley.

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