RESEARCHERS in Western Australia have made a vital breakthrough in discovering a gene in barley that will help combat waterlogging damage.
Waterlogging, especially in later winter, is a major drain on yield, with losses up of to 50 per cent common in waterlogging-prone paddocks.
Along with this, there is the risk of waterlogging causing grain quality damage, in particular in terms of smaller grain size.
The work was spearheaded by the Western Barley Genetics Alliance, a partnership between Murdoch University and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
Alliance Director, Murdoch University professor Chengdao Li said the discovery would allow breeders to work on the development of new waterlogging tolerant varieties that will enable barley growers to boost their productivity and profitability.
Prof Li said the research results clearly indicated the superior performance of the lines with the new waterlogging tolerant gene.
“The varieties with the waterlogging tolerance gene in our trials achieved yields ranging from 101 to 154 per cent of the benchmark, demonstrating their ability to perform under waterlogged conditions,” he said.
The Western Barley Genetics Alliance teamed up with the University of Tasmania, Zhejiang University and Yangzhou University to screen barley germplasm from around the world to identify lines that were more tolerant to waterlogging.
The team then used molecular marker-assisted technology to identify four genes that control tolerance to waterlogging, including one major gene.
Using the recently completed Barley Reference Genome Sequence, to which the Alliance contributed, new molecular markers were developed to target the waterlogging tolerance genes.
This gene was then incorporated into five barley varieties to compare their performance to the benchmark variety Hindmarsh.
The new lines were tested last year under natural waterlogged conditions in a restricted field trial at Katanning, in the Great Southern region in Western Australia.
More field trials will continue this year at WA locations, including at Albany, in the Great Southern, and west of Williams, in the central wheatbelt.
The information from the research is provided to the commercial sector to develop new, improved barley varieties, a process that takes five to 10 years.