Genotyping technologies help keep UK barley market competitive

July 05, 2010

By exploiting technology originally used in human genome studies, a public-private partnership programme is changing the way in which commercial barley breeding is being conducted. Findings from this four-year research project are highlighted in the latest issue of Business, the quarterly highlights magazine of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

High quality barley production underpins the UK's £20 billion pound malting, brewing and distilling sectors, including the £4 billion whisky industry, the UK's biggest food and drink export.

To maintain and increase competitiveness in these sectors improved barley varieties that continually outperform their predecessors are vital which is why the Association Genetics of UK Elite Barley (AGOUEB) project was developed and funded by BBSRC, Defra and the Scottish Government through the Sustainable Arable LINK programme. The project brought together a consortium of breeders and geneticists, together with representatives from the barley supply chain, to develop and utilise powerful genotyping technologies in a new 'association mapping' approach to genetic analyses.

Professor Robbie Waugh, project leader from the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI), explains: "AGOUEB is testimony to the value of having a longer-term vision and investment in crop science. By developing and using this new technology we have gained a much better understanding of what combinations of genes are required to make a good UK barley variety and we are working with the breeding community to improve economically important characteristics such as yield and resistance to pests and disease."

The partners in AGOUEB developed a genetic marker technology that allows thousands of genes located in specific segments across the barley genome, to be characterised in a single experiment at a tiny fraction of the cost of previous approaches. They then used this technology to determine the detailed genetic make-up of around 1000 barley cultivars and correlated the genetic make-up surrounding each genetic marker with a range of traits. By doing this AGOUEB has been able to identify segments of the barley genome that contribute positively to a broad range of characteristics. It has even allowed them to isolate a gene involved in plant pigmentation and another in determining floral structure.

"This aspect of the project is important because it provides both molecular diagnostics that can be efficiently used in plant breeding and a DNA sequence template for discovering natural gene variants that may perform better than those currently available," explains Professor Waugh.

The breeders involved in AGOUEB are now investigating innovative ways to use the data generated in the project to increase the speed and precision of improved barley cultivar development.

Commenting on the research, BBSRC Chief Executive Professor Douglas Kell, said: "This invaluable research highlights the huge benefits of scientists and industry joining forces and working across traditional boundaries. Developing new breeds of barley has important implications for the UK economy as well as paving the way for improving other crops which could have huge benefits for tackling issues such as global food security."

BBSRC Media Office
Tracey Jewitt, Tel: 01793 414694, email:
Nancy Mendoza, Tel: 01793 413355, email:
Matt Goode, Tel: 01793 413299, email:


This research features in the Summer 2010 issue of Business, BBSRC's research highlights magazine.

To read the full article, visit:

The consortium of breeders and geneticists involved in AGOUEB are: SCRI, The University of Birmingham, NIAB, UK-EU breeders (KWS-UK, LS Plant Breeding, Nickerson/Limagrain, Secobra, Syngenta, Svalöf Weibull), Home Grown Cereals Authority, Maltsters Association of Great Britain, Brewing Research International, Coors Brewers & the Scotch Whisky Research Institute.


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following: The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Studies (Aberystwyth University), Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre, The Genome Analysis Centre, The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) and Rothamsted Research. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Related Biotechnology Articles from Brightsurf:

Cyanobacteria as "green" catalysts in biotechnology
Researchers from TU Graz and Ruhr University Bochum show in the journal ACS Catalysis how the catalytic activity of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can be significantly increased.

Biotechnology to the rescue of Brussels sprouts
An international team has identified the genes that make these plants resistant to the pathogen that attacks crops belonging to the cabbage family all over the world.

UM professor co-authors report on the use of biotechnology in forests
University of Montana Professor Diana Six is one of 12 authors of a new report that addresses the potential for biotechnology to provide solutions for protecting forest trees from insect and pathogen outbreaks, which are increasing because of climate change and expanded global trade.

Faster genome evolution methods to transform yeast for industrial biotechnology
A research team led by Prof. DAI Junbiao at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with Prof.

New innovations in cell-free biotechnology
Professor Michael Jewett's new platform to conduct cell-free protein synthesis could lead to improved quality of manufactured protein therapeutics and biomaterials.

Silk 'micrococoons' could be used in biotechnology and medicine
Microscopic versions of the cocoons spun by silkworms have been manufactured by a team of researchers.

The end of biotechnology as we know it
More than 400 attendees from five continents discussed trends and improvements in biotechnology at the European Summit of Industrial Biotechnology (ESIB) in Graz/Austria and talked many topics like a dehumanized research process.

Biotechnology: A growing field in the developing world
A detailed new report surveys a broad cross-section of biotechnology work across developing countries, revealing steady growth in fields tied to human well-being worldwide.

China releases first report on biotechnology in developing countries
The first report on biotechnology in developing countries revealing an overall picture of their biotechnology growth and competitiveness was released on Nov.

Exclusive: Biotechnology leaders surveyed about impact of Trump presidency
The day following the election of Donald J. Trump as President, a survey of leaders in biotechnology in the United States, conducted by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News showed that Trump's presidency will negatively impact NIH research funding as well as STEM education; a plurality said it will also spark a 'brain drain' as foreign-born researchers educated in American universities will be more likely to leave.

Read More: Biotechnology News and Biotechnology Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to