Barley enhancement to meet the needs of Ontario industry

Principal Investigator: Lewis Lukens & Alireza Navabi

Research Institution: University of Guelph

Project Title: Barley enhancement to meet the needs of Ontario industry

Timeline: March 2016 to March 2019


  • Evaluate and cross from a diverse set of barley genotypes from both western Canada and other countries to identify elite, disease-resistant barley adapted to Ontario.
  • Generate a set of mutagenized lines from the barley genotype Dignity to introduce novel genetic variation into a leading barley variety.
  • Select for a stay-green barley to improve crop stress tolerance and yields.

Impacts: (3-5 impacts)

  • The improvement of barley genetics and development of improved barley cultivars will maintain and increase the global competitiveness of Ontario barley growers and processors.
  • The collection of elite barley diversity and generation of a mutagenized population will identify many valuable traits that can be harnessed for future barley improvement.

Scientific Summary: approximately 500 word abstract (150 as a mini lit review; 350 project specific, including final results)

Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is an increasingly important crop for Ontario farmers and is currently grown on approximately 115,000 acres in the province. Barley is currently a source of feed and food. Although there is limited production of malt, there is a strong demand from the rapidly growing craft brewing industry. Genetic improvement by introducing novel germplasm and by selecting for important traits within that germplasm will contribute to a high yielding, high quality crop. Genetic improvement of Ontario barley has languished for a number of years. Currently there is little-to-no private barley breeding in Ontario, and the public barley breeding capacity outside of this project is minimal. Without genetic improvement, the quality and productivity of the current crop will likely decrease gradually, although new disease pressures could cause a rapid decline. Improved variety development will enhance barley yields and quality, thereby increasing the value.

This project will introduce novel germplasm for barley improvement and evaluate and utilize the latest statistical and information technologies to make selections and to determine the crosses to be performed. A key rationale for this work is to maintain and increase the global competitiveness of Ontario barley growers and processors.  We will have a three-pronged approach to barley improvement. First, we will initiate an active barley breeding program using diverse germplasm using barley cultivars developed by breeders in environments with some similarities to release cultivars as an Ontario variety, or use cultivars in crosses to capture positive traits. Second, we will mutagenize an elite barley variety to generate novel genetic variation. Because we will generate valuable traits in an elite cultivar, we can quickly use these traits in a cultivated variety. Finally, we will select for stay-green barley that maintains green leaves long after flowering and after water/heat stress because stay-green has been a critical trait for the improvement of other cereals. Stay-green is highly heritable and stay-green varieties have been induced through mutagenesis with an EMS treatment. We note that EMS mutagenizes randomly, thus genotypes will vary for valuable traits in addition to stay-green.

External Funding Partners: [prepopulate for researcher]

Cribit Seeds Ltd.; Wintermar Farms; SeCan

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.