Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

DNA of ancient lost barley could help modern crops cope with water stress

23.07.2009
Researchers at the University of Warwick have recovered significant DNA information from a lost form of ancient barley that triumphed for over 3000 years seeing off: 5 changes in civilisation, water shortages and a much more popular form of barley that produces more grains. This discovery offers a real insight into the couture of ancient farming and could assist the development of new varieties of crops to face today's climate change challenges.

The researchers, led by Dr Robin Allaby from the University of Warwick's plant research arm Warwick HRI, examined Archaeobotanical remains of ancient barley at Qasr Ibrim in Egypt's Upper Nile. This is a site that was occupied for over 3000 years by 5 successive cultures: Napatan, Roman, Meoitic, Christian and Islamic.

The first surprise for the researchers was that throughout that period every culture seemed to be growing a two rowed form of barley. While natural wild barley tends to be two rowed most farmers prefer to grow a much higher yield 6 row version which produces up to 3 times as many grains. That 6 row version has grown for over 8000 years and that was certainly grown in the lower Nile over the same period as Qasr Ibrim was occupied. It was thought that despite the fact that the rest of Egypt used 6 row barley that the farmers of Qasr Ibrim were perhaps deliberately choosing to import 2 rowed barley but the researchers could not understand why that would be so.

The plant scientists were pleased to find that the very dry conditions at Qasr Ibrim meant that they were able to extract a great deal of DNA information from barley samples from the site that dated back 2900 years. This was far better than would normally be expected from barley samples of that age. This led to the researchers to a second and much bigger surprise. They found that the DNA evidence showed that the two rowed barley at the site wasn't the normal wild two eared barley but a mutation of the more normally cultivated six rowed barley that had changed into a two ear form that had continued to be cultivated for around three millennia.

Dr Robin Allaby said:

"The consistency of the two-row phenotype throughout all the strata spanning three millennia indicates that the reason for the reappearance of the two row form is more likely to be genetic, not environmental. Consequently, the two-row condition has probably resulted from a gain of a function mutation at another point in the plants DNA that has also reasserted the two-row condition from a six-row ancestor"

"There may have been a natural selection pressure that strongly favoured the two-row condition. One such possible cause we are currently investigating is water stress. Qasr Ibrim is located in the upper Nile which is very arid relative to the lower Nile where six-row remains are found, and studies have shown that two-row can survive water stress better than six-row"

He concluded that:

"This finding has two important implications. Such strong selection pressure is likely to have affected many genes in terms of adaptation. Archaeogenetic study of the DNA of such previously lost ancient crops could confirm the nature of the selection pressure and be very valuable in the development of new varieties of crops to help with today's climate change challenges. Secondly this crop's rediscovery adds to our respect for the methods and thinking of ancient farmers. These ancient cultures utilized crops best suited to their environmental situation for centuries, rather than the much more popular six rowed barley they used a successful low grain number yield crop which could cope far better with water stress."

The research paper entitled "Archaeogenetic Evidence of Ancient Nubian Barley Evolution from Six to Two-Row Indicates Local Adaptation" has just been published in PLoS One. The papers authors are: by Dr Robin Allaby, Sarah A. Palmer and Jonathan D. Moore from the University of Warwick's plant research arm Warwick HRI; Alan J. Clapham from Worcestershire Historic Environment & Archaeology Service at the University of Worcester; and Pamela Rose fromThe McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.

For further information contact: Dr Sharon Hall, Communications Office
Warwick HRI, University of Warwick
sharon.hall@warwick.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)2476 575254 (Direct line)

Sharon Hall | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.warwick.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>