The project will directly impact the barley breeding industry with the development of data and tools that will bring improvements in efficiency and reduction of costs. Perhaps more importantly the improved understanding of genetics and the availability of markers will allow breeders to concentrate on areas that have proven more intractable in the past, such as environmental adaptation and response together with durable disease resistance. The project directly involves the major UK barley breeding companies (CPB Twyford, LS Plant Breeding, Nickerson, Secobra/Dalgety, Syngenta & Svalöf Weibull). More broadly the unified phenotyping of the elite material studied by the industrial partners will allow the development of diagnostics and the development of more exact genetic specifications for particular requirements within the whole barley supply chain. Importantly the project directly involves representatives of cereal growers (HGCA) and end-user industries (Maltsters Association of Great Britain (MAGB), Brewing Research International (BRi), Coors Brewers & Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI)).

However while the objectives set out in the proposal are of direct end-user relevance they also address important issues of interest to those involved in plant and crop research generally as due to the past investment in barley genomics and its inherent biological advantages (as a diploid inbreeder) this project is now possible for barley in a way that it is not for other crops. It is worth stressing however that this project will act as a blueprint for those crops, in particular wheat, where such a proposal would currently be premature. Indeed the close synteny between barley and wheat will mean that many of the findings of this project concerning the genetic control of particular traits may well be of direct relevance those involved in research in wheat.

The outlined project will also benefit those in the wider plant research community as a core component of the project will focus on the association of quantitative characteristics such as flowering time with candidate genes determined from studies in Arabidopsis and rice. The integration of this work with ongoing and future genetic studies is facilitated by the fact that the SNP markers used in the project will relate directly to genes used in the construction of the Affymetrix Barley 1 GeneChip array.

We believe this proposal will help to underpin the objectives of the Sustainable Arable LINK Programme fitting within the “Biotechnology, breeding and agronomy for specific end-uses” research theme and impacting upon other themes, notably “Strategies for control of resistance to pesticides” and “Novel strategies for applying nutrients and reducing their loss to the environment”

The work aligns directly with the recommendations of the recent “Review of BBSRC-Funded Research Relevant to Crop Science”. In particular it relates to the technological priorities set out in paragraph 3.4 that form part of Recommendation 1. and also directly addresses Recommendation 2. We would like to stress that we believe that the objectives of the proposed project form a vital bridge between genomic and genetic studies and the realisation of the crop targets identified in Recommendation 1 of the Crop Science Review. For example, work on disease resistance within the project will directly impact on the delivery of the target of “durable resistance … for pests and pathogens … while protecting biodiversity in the wider environment” set out in paragraph 3.3. Moreover all the information generated will have an importance beyond the lifespan of the project itself as we envisage the databasing and dissemination of the genotypic data and the associations found (Recommendation 3) will form an integral part of the future commercial exploitation route of barley genetic research as well as a means of identifying genetic targets for researchers.

PrintFor further information on this project please contact Bill Thomas (bill.thomas@hutton.ac.uk) from the James Hutton Institute.