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Latest research on arable crops showcased at Cereals in Practice 2013

Blair McKenzie discusses arables research at Cereals in Practice 2013
The basic plant model for spring barley has not changed for 30 years, but improvements have been made in disease resistance, yield and quality, particularly in enhancing suitability for Scotch whisky distilling.

Despite the sodden weather, the latest research on arable crops was showcased at the annual Cereals in Practice event, organised by the James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) at Burnside Farm, Stanley, near Perth on 2 July 2013.

Dr Bill Thomas, barley geneticist at the James Hutton Institute, highlighted the dramatic effect that changing one gene in a plant can have upon the phenotype using lines of the North American barley that differed with respect to individual genes.

Dr Thomas said: “Whilst introduction of a gene affecting lignin formation can decrease lignin content and increase fodder digestibility, the barbs on awns affect palatability of the crop as forage. Genes such as awnless can remove the awns of another gene such as hooded can replace them with a more palatable structure. In parallel, genes affecting leaf width can be used to increase the leaf to stem ratio and hence the overall fodder biomass yield.

Similarly, Dr Stuart Swanston demonstrated how barley had changed between the 19th and 21st centuries. Wider crossing in the 20th century combined central and western European malting quality, although some negative quality aspects were linked to the introduction of disease resistance genes from exotic sources. Harvest index was changed, especially by the introduction of dwarf types that combined high yield with excellent quality.

"The basic plant model for spring barley has not changed for 30 years but improvements have been made in disease resistance, yield and quality, particularly in enhancing suitability for Scotch whisky distilling," Dr Swanston commented.

Fusarium infection affected the barley and wheat crops from harvest 2012 and Dr Mark Looseley noted that work from the INSPYR project had shown that resistance had been detected at a locus where the resistant allele was virtually absent from current elite spring cultivars, whereas older cultivars had the resistance. Chevalier was notable as an older variety that possessed the resistant allele and the John Innes Centre had developed a population from a Chevalier cross in order to map the character to provide the tools to transfer the resistance in the breeding of new varieties.

Dr Blair McKenzie demonstrated a small rotary spike harrow attachment from Simba for fitting behind field equipment such as fertiliser spreaders and sprayers. The action of the harrow is to disturb the soil surface of tramlines so that run-off is dramatically reduced. This consequently reduces soil erosion, nutrient loss, and pesticide pollution.

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

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Printed from /news/latest-research-arable-crops-showcased-cereals-practice-2013 on 17/07/19 11:35:40 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.