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Genetic secrets of Golden Promise barley unlocked

Golden Promise barley ears (courtesy Bill Thomas)
"Understanding the function of the mutation in Golden Promise and its interactions with other genes means that favourable traits can be bred into our current varieties of barley"

Scientists from the International Barley Hub working in collaboration with brewing industry partners have unravelled the genetic secrets of Golden Promise, a popular malting barley variety in the 1970s and 1980s, in a drive to develop future varieties suited to the needs of growers and distillers.

Golden Promise’s combined short height, high yields and early maturity, together with its characteristic growth, made it the variety of choice for malting barley purchases during the 1970s and 1980s, when it was principally used by distillers for Scotch whisky production.

The gene responsible for these favourable traits had remained undiscovered until a collaboration between scientists from the James Hutton Institute and Carlsberg Research Laboratory managed to shed further light into the genetic makeup of the variety.

Dr Bill Thomas, a barley geneticist at the James Hutton Institute’s Cell and Molecular Sciences, said: “In its heyday, Golden Promise was so popular that any whisky aged between 35-40 years old today will more than likely have come from it. However, after changes were made to the sieving standards for Scottish malting barley in the 1990s, Golden Promise’s lineage all but died out in the UK but there is still some demand for Golden Promise malt all over the world.

“The gene lives on in successful Australian varieties Hindmarsh and La Trobe as they trace back to a sister line of Golden Promise.

“Understanding the function of the mutation in Golden Promise and its interactions with other genes means that favourable traits can be bred into our current varieties of barley. This in turn will translate into newer varieties designed to meet the needs of both the growers and producers.” 

Dr Ilka Braumann, from Carlsberg Research Laboratory, commented: “When breeding modern malting barley varieties for both the brewing and distilling industry, it is essential to consider both agronomic and malting quality parameters.

“Therefore, understanding the genetic principles that allowed successful varieties like Golden Promise to adapt to local climatic conditions and at the same time provide competitive quality is the basis for breeding new, improved varieties for future global and local demands.”

Notes to editors:

Paper: Wendt T, Holme I, Dockter C, Preuß A, Thomas W, Druka A, Waugh, R, Hansson, M Braumann, I (2016). HvDep1 Is a Positive Regulator of Culm Elongation and Grain Size in Barley and Impacts Yield in an Environment-Dependent Manner. PLoS ONE 11(12): e0168924.

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Printed from /news/genetic-secrets-golden-promise-barley-unlocked on 07/12/23 09:47:58 AM

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.