Biotech Updates

DNA Discovery Key to Drought Resistant Crops

June 8, 2012

The international collaboration involving The University of Western Australia's Institute of Agriculture and researchers from China, Syria, and United States has identified the 'stay green' DNA in barley, in a new research to help farmers grow better crops that can withstand drought, heat, and salinity.

Researchers from the project studied 292 barley accession from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). The accessions were collected from 35 countries in six geographic regions including Africa, Middle East Asia, North East Asia, Arabian Peninsula, Australia, and Europe. Using  EcoTILLING, a molecular biology technique that allows direct identification of natural mutations in specific genes, the researchers identified 23 DNA sequence variations, 17 of which are in the gene coding region. Two of these 17 DNA sequence variations are predicted to cause malfunctioned proteins, which will cause change in barley phenotypic traits.

A better understanding of the genetic variation in genes that encode the light harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding proteins (LHCP) helps plant breeders use these DNA sequence variations as DNA markers to improve the ‘stay green' efficiency of plants. The study found that samples from Middle East Asia had the highest genetic diversity in genes that encode the LHCP and the researchers conclude that crossing and transfer of gene from Middle East Asian accession into cultivated barley will enhance genetic diversity.

The news release is available at UWA's website: