Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Discover Gene for Drought Resistance in Barley

September 4, 2019
Scientists at Heriot-Watt University led by Dr. Peter Morris have identified the gene responsible for drought resistance in barley. The research team showed that the gene HvMYB1 controls stress tolerance in cereals such as barley. This is the first time that HvMYB1 gene was associated with drought resistance.

Dr. Morris said that their discovery is significant as it will help in developing drought resistant crops in the future. He said, "As climate change gathers pace and we experience more extreme seasons, it is essential we can maintain continuity of supply. This is significant for key industries like Scotch whiskey, one of the UK's leading export items." He added that their discovery also has implications for other cereal crops including wheat, maize, and rice.

According to the research team, identifying one particular gene for drought resistance has been a challenge as barley has over 39,000 genes, almost double as the number for humans. The researchers increased the expression of HvMYB1 in test plants and simulated drought conditions. They were able to prove that plants with prominently expressed HvMYB1 survived prolonged periods of drought.

For more details, read the news release on Heriot-Watt University website.

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