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Completed mapping of barley’s DNA stands to revolutionise plant breeding

For ten years, researchers in as many countries have collaborated to map the collective DNA sequence, i.e. the genome, of barley. Their work is now complete. The result will revolutionise plant breeding.
A  field of barley in the sun
It has taken researchers ten years to map the collective DNA sequence of barley. Photo: Christoph Dockter

Mats Hansson, professor of plant molecular biology at Lund University in Sweden, is the only Swedish participant in the mapping of barley’s collective DNA.

The result means that it is now faster and easier to identify plants with the right properties for different climates, soil conditions and levels of precipitation. It will also be simpler to select for other properties such as resistance to attack from pests, blight and fungus.

The breakthrough in the mapping of the collective DNA of barley will enable greater harvests in parts of the world where it is difficult to grow crops.

‟Absolutely. We have released the DNA sequence. It is already being frenetically used by researchers and plant breeders all over the world”, says Mats Hansson.

The collective DNA of barley is almost twice as large as that of human beings. According to Mats Hansson, the barley genome will now be of great help in similar work on closely related grains, namely wheat and rye.

Barley is often used as animal fodder, but also as human food. Barley is also used in the production of beer and whisky.    

The results will appear in an article in the scientific journal Nature.

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