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Genetic discovery sheds light on sodium tolerance in barley crops

Barley scientists have identified a gene that influences sodium content
“This paper represents five years’ work. We are delighted that our discovery can provide real benefits in terms of understanding this important trait”

International Barley Hub scientists at the James Hutton Institute, working with colleagues in the UK, Australia and China, have identified a natural variation in a gene that influences sodium content in barley crops, a finding which may help advance the development of barley varieties with improved yield and resilience.

Sodium in soil is transported from the root to the shoot of barley plants, and while an excessive level is toxic to most plants, non-toxic concentrations have been shown to improve yields under certain conditions, such as when soil potassium is low.

In the latest issue of Communications Biology, the research team examines how a specific version of the HKT1;5 gene allows barley plants to accumulate high concentrations of sodium without any adverse impacts on plant growth, even suggesting enhanced yield potential in non-saline environments.

Hutton barley geneticist and lead author of the study, Dr Kelly Houston, said: “This particular version of HKT1;5 is present in 35 per cent of contemporary barley genetic material, compared to being almost absent in the wild barley and landraces screened, which means there is potentially an advantage to having it in future varieties.

“This paper represents five years’ work. We are delighted that our discovery can provide real benefits in terms of understanding this important trait.”

Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, added: “Barley is one of the UK’s most valuable crops and so this discovery is important and likely to have significant economic impact. The International Barley Hub is showing again that research in this area can yield great returns on investing in the basic understanding of barley.”

The research was an international collaboration between barley scientists at the James Hutton Institute and colleagues at the University of Nottingham, University of Adelaide, Australian National University and Huaiyin Normal University.

The International Barley Hub is an initiative aiming to create a Dundee-based world-leading centre to translate excellence in barley research and innovation into economic, social and environmental benefits. For more information visit barleyhub.org.

Paper: Houston K, Qiu J, Wege S, Hrmova M, Oakey H, Qu Y, Smith P, Situmorang A, Macaulay M, Flis P, Bayer M, Roy S, Halpin C, Russell J, Schreiber M, Byrt C, Gilliham M, Salt D E, and Waugh R. (2020). Barley sodium content is regulated by natural variants of the Na+ transporter HvHKT1;5. Communications Biology. doi:10.1038/s42003-020-0990-5.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/genetic-discovery-sheds-light-sodium-tolerance-barley-crops on 30/10/20 05:24:37 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.