Use of DNA marker-based assays to define and select malting characteristics in Barley


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 July 1998 - 31 December 1998
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
AHDB sector cost:
£31,309 From HGCA (Project no. 1554)
Project leader:
R P Ellis, E Ferguson, J S Swanston, J Forrest, J Fuller, P Lawrence, W Powell, J Russell, R F Tester, W T B Thomas and G Young Mylnefield Research Services Ltd, Scottish Crop Research Institute Mylenfield, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA



About this project


The main aim of the project was to show the value of using genetic markers to investigate characteristics of barley related to malting quality. Another objective was to gain some understanding of the contribution of starch granules, their morphology and their associated proteins on grain texture and malting behaviour. Malting quality is a complex character which depends on the barley cultivar, the weather and the expertise of the grower. By utilising the genotypes forming the pedigrees of three contemporary malting cultivars, the population investigated represented an evolution of malting barley. Concurrent with that has been a growing sophistication in selection technology and a vast increase in genetic knowledge. Since the development of Proctor and Maris Otter, in which relatively simple laboratory selection was used, tests have developed to mirror the changes in malting technology. Further, the breeding of Optic and Regina for example depended on a much greater understanding of how large numbers of genes act together to produce the better combinations of yield and grain quality.

The newest genetic techniques allow variation in the base sequences of the plant's DNA to be fingerprinted. This genetic information can then be used to find the location of particular genes on the seven chromosomes of barley, telling the breeder which characters can be easily modified without changing other important genes nearby. In addition, if end users define particular characters important to malting performance, the geneticist can use markers to identify the genes responsible for controlling these characters so allowing greater precision in breeding programmes. It also provides a simple means of demonstrating the genetic relationships between characters such as grain hardness (milling energy), hot water extract and starch properties. DNA marker assays only require small amounts of DNA so could be used to identify cultivars on the farm and in maltings. In addition the use of DNA markers has been shown to give greater discrimination of cultivars than plant morphology which is currently used in DUS tests.

The development and large scale application of DNA based markers in grain trading will aid profitability throughout the system from the farm to the consumer. More precise understanding of genetic relationships between characters will enable the consumer to identify genotypes for specific purposes and the breeder to produce suitable cultivars more rapidly and cost effectively. Growers will benefit from genotypes better targeted to give a high quality grain sample, in the environmental conditions under which they will be cultivated. This will be achieved by more precise location and manipulation of genetic factors already present in cultivated barley. Genetic markers are a short sequence of bases, constructed to match complimentary sequences in barley DNA. They are used as tags and are characteristic of cultivars but do not involve genetic modification.