twitter RSS Feed linkedin acp contact

Research uncovers gene that improves drought resistance in cereals

As climate change is having a devastating impact on cereal crops, scientists at Heriot-Watt University have identified a gene responsible for drought resistance in barley which is thought to help future-proof the cereals industry

barleyThe research will help focus attention on different barley varieties in which this gene is naturally expressed more prominently.

Publishing the results of nearly five years of work in the Journal of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, the team demonstrated that gene HvMYB1 controls stress tolerance in cereals such as barley. This is the first time HvMYB1 has been associated with drought resistance.

Dr Peter Morris from the Institute of Earth and Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University said, “This is a significant finding that will allow more drought resistance crops to be bred in the future. Drought is already impacting yields with the European cereals harvest hit particularly hard in 2018. A prolonged, dry and hot summer significantly impacted yields and quality.”

“As climate change gathers pace and we experience more extreme seasons, it is essential we can maintain continuity of supply. This is significant for major industries like Scotch whisky, one of the UK’s leading export items. Our project focused specifically on barley, one of the three ingredients used in the production of Scotch whisky.”

“Barley has over 39,000 genes, almost double the number for humans, so characterising one particular gene which promotes drought resistance has been a considerable challenge. By increasing the expression of this particular gene in test plants and simulating drought conditions, we’ve been able to prove that plants in which HvMYB1 is more prominently expressed are able to survive prolonged periods of drought.”

“Genetic variation is essential in plant breeding for resilience so we expect this research will now be used by plant breeders as a marker for drought resistance. It will help focus attention on different barley varieties in which this gene is naturally expressed more prominently. This may lead to greater variation in the gene pool of crop plants and more drought-resistant crops in future years.”

Dr Morris added, “This has important implications for the wider cereals industry including the production of wheat, maize and rice.”

Dagmar Droogsma, director of industry at the Scotch Whisky Association, commented, “The SWA works closely with specialists at Heriot-Watt University, and others in the sector, to ensure that the industry is equipped to adapt to any changes that may arise from a changing climate. We, therefore, welcome this research which helps to provide resilience against the effects of climate change and to sustain the diversity of barley varieties used for Scotch whisky.”

“Agriculture in Scotland supplies some of the best grain anywhere in the world, and these recent findings contribute to an industry-wide programme of research and development which helps to maintain Scotch whisky’s competitive edge as an iconic Scottish product. The Scotch whisky industry supports 10,000 jobs across Scotland, and we are proud to have funded this research into a fundamental element of its supply chain.”

The value of cereals to the UK economy is significant. In 2018, the value of wheat rose by US$113.95mn to US$2499.73mn while the overall value of barley rose by US$101.96mn to US$1147.91mn as a result of higher prices (up 10 per cent).

The research was funded by the Scotch Whisky Association, which aims to secure the sustainability of the Scotch whisky industry, and Interface, which matches businesses with Scotland’s world-leading academic expertise.


LATEST NEWS IN Agriculture

African food imports bill predicted to double by 2030

African food imports bill predicted to d…

Experts have warned that the cost of Africa’s yearly food imports could increase from US$50bn to US$110bn by 2030 if immediate measures aren’t taken to increase food production

Wildlife and forestry sector in the spotlight

Wildlife and forestry sector in the spot…

On August 22, the 23rd session of the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission, hosted by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo opened in Kinshasa, putting the future...

Boosting investment for Africa-made cotton

Boosting investment for Africa-made cott…

At a partner’s conference on cotton, jointly organised with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), donors were urged to mobilise resources for new partnerships.   

Nature-based solutions help farmers in Ghana

Nature-based solutions help farmers in G…

Organic pesticides, waste-based fertilisers and forest regeneration are just a few of the green initiatives being employed in Ghana to boost farming communities’ resilience to the impacts of climate...

Boosting soil nutrient mapping in sub-Saharan Africa

Boosting soil nutrient mapping in sub-Sa…

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is set to fast track an impact-oriented project in sub-Saharan Africa and Central America for digital soil nutrient mapping, after...

Gambia-Korea partnership seeks to double rice production to curb food insecurity

Gambia-Korea partnership seeks to double…

President Adama Barrow has received a delegation led by the Korean Ambassador to The Gambia, HE Kim Ji-Joon, at the State House in Banjul to announce the delivery of sample rice...

Prev Next

OTHER RELATED ARTICLES - Agriculture

IFAD president calls on member states to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

IFAD president calls on member states to…

President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gilbert F Houngbo has called on its 177 member states to help the fund doubling impact on the lives of the...

Global food production poses an increasing climate threat

Global food production poses an increasi…

Rising nitrous oxide emissions are putting reaching climate goals and the objectives of the Paris Agreement in jeopardy, according to the authors of a study published in Nature

African farmers revamp agriculture norms through Purdue partnership

African farmers revamp agriculture norms…

Scott Massey, a Purdue University graduate and founder of Heliponix, a company that makes an appliance that fits under a kitchen counter and grows produce year-round, brings sustainable agriculture methods...

Lantmännen, Yara to launch first fossil-free food chain

Lantmännen, Yara to launch first fossil-…

Swedish agricultural cooperative Lantmännen and Norwegian fertiliser company Yara will launch a pilot project with the aim to introduce the world’s first certified fossil-free food chain

African youth crucial for modernising agricultural sectors

African youth crucial for modernising ag…

African countries need its young people to modernise the agricultural sectors, according to FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva

Acute hunger affecting more than 100mn people worldwide: Report

Acute hunger affecting more than 100mn p…

Around 113mn people in 53 countries experienced acute food insecurity in 2018, compared to 124mn in 2017, according to a report by European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization of...

FAO unveils global action on OCOP

FAO unveils global action on OCOP

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched its global action on green development of special agricultural products: One Country One Priority Product (OCOP) This action aims...

African Development Bank official meets São Tomé and Príncipe President

African Development Bank official meets …

African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina met with the President of São Tomé and Príncipe, Evaristo Carvalho, while the bank approved its new country strategy paper

Zambia to expand support for small-scale farmers

Zambia to expand support for small-scale…

Zambia Sugar is currently developing a strategy to further enable small growers to become economically-viable suppliers of cane

Nutreco and Unga Group to expand footprint in East Africa

Nutreco and Unga Group to expand footpri…

Nutreco has formed two joint ventures with the Kenya-based, feed miller in East Africa Unga Group Plc to meet the growing demand for high-quality protein within the East African region

Agriculture in need of modernisation to boost Africa's growth

Agriculture in need of modernisation to …

An official in the UN's Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said agriculture would play an important role in improving economic growth in the continent

FAO’s global action to control fall armyworm outbreaks

FAO’s global action to control fall army…

FAO has advanced global action to control the spread and damage of fall armyworm, a voracious invasive species that is ravaging crops in Africa, Asia and the Near East

Prev Next