Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Making barley less thirsty

Wageningen scientists discover genetic factor that makes barley plants resistant to salt

Barley breeders may soon develop varieties of barley which are both less sensitive to high concentrations of salt ions in the plant and more resistant to osmotic stress caused by saline soil.

Nguyen Viet Long, who hopes to obtain his doctorate at Wageningen University (part of Wageningen UR) on 2 November 2012, has found two sequence regions in the chromosomes of barley that contain the genes for these two properties.

The section comprising resistance to osmotic stress in particular is receiving a great deal of international attention from scientists working on salt tolerance. Nguyen is hoping that barley varieties which can be cultivated in saline soils will reach the market within around five years, thanks in part to his results.

Salinisation of agricultural land is a global problem. An area two hundred times the size of the Netherlands has already become too saline to use for food production. One fifth of this represents some of the best irrigated farmlands in the world. And climate change is aggravating the problem even further.

This is why researchers and plant breeders around the world are looking for opportunities to develop salt-tolerant crops for arable farming and horticulture. Of course this mostly focuses on the major food crops such as grains and potatoes. The Vietnamese PhD student Nguyen examined the possibility of adapting barley to saline conditions. Since barley is a grain, many of the results of this research will be useful to scientists studying wheat or rice. Nguyen worked together with the Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung (IPK) in Germany, which has a large collection of different varieties of barley.

Nguyen examined some two hundred different varieties, including barley types from the Middle East. This is the area where barley originated, which means that large genetic variation can be found there – and the greater the genetic variation of examined varieties, the higher the chance of finding genetic factors that can be used in plant breeding. Being able to investigate so many different types of barley enabled Nguyen to determine the positions of the important hereditary properties faster and more accurately. In his research, Nguyen studied the growth of barley plants in high salt conditions.

He looked at a number of plant characteristics that are important for salt tolerance such as delayed yellowing of leaves, number of shoots and ion content in the leaves. By linking these observations to DNA analysis, he found two positions in the barley genome that affect the plant’s resistance to salt.

One of the two areas, on chromosome 4, affects how the plant deals with increased concentrations of salt ions such as Na+ and Cl-. The plant uses a kind of ‘ion pump’ to prevent these elevated i

on concentrations from reaching the leaves. This allows the photosynthesis in the leaves to continue as normal, permitting the plant to continue growing and producing seeds. The discovery of a similar mechanism in wheat was in the news quite recently.

The second area identified by Nguyen, on chromosome 6, contains one or more genes that make barley plants less sensitive to osmotic stress, which is the result of the high concentration of ions in saline soil. In this situation, plants absorb water less easily, which directly affects growth of the plants. This discovery is a real breakthrough, and has led to considerable international interest.

The precise genes responsible for salt tolerance in barley will probably be identified soon.

“Examining the genetic makeup and salt tolerance of so many different types of barley enabled me to map the interesting areas quickly and accurately,” Nguyen explains. “I am therefore hopeful that we will have barley varieties that can be grown on saline soils within around five years “ This research was funded by Wageningen UR Plant Breeding and the Vietnamese Ministry of Education.

Note for the editors

Further information: Erik Toussaint + 31 6 51 56 59 49, Wageningen University is part of the international expertise organisation Wageningen UR (University & Research centre). Our mission is ‘To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life’.

Within Wageningen UR, nine research institutes – both specialised and applied – have joined forces with Wageningen University and Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences to help answer the most important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With approximately 40 locations (in the Netherlands, Brazil and China), 6500 members of staff and 10,000 students, Wageningen UR is one of the leading organisations in its domain worldwide. The integral approach to problems and the cooperation between the exact sciences and the technological and social disciplines are at the heart of the Wageningen Approach.

Erik Toussaint | Wageningen University
Further information:

Further reports about: Applied Science Wageningen food crop genetic variation salt tolerance

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Forest Management Yields Higher Productivity through Biodiversity
14.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>